State sees first job-vacancy gains in three years

The Bellingham Business Journal

Job openings in Washington increased for the first time in nearly three years, according to the Employment Security Department’s “Spring 2010 Washington Job-Vacancy Survey.”

The survey is conducted twice a year, in the spring and fall. The latest survey showed a 21 percent increase in job openings since the previous survey in fall 2009. An estimated 38,732 vacancies were identified, compared to 32,037 in fall 2009 and 32,635 in spring 2009. The record high was 90,000 vacancies in fall 2006.

With 1,981 job vacancies, the northwest region, which includes Whatcom, Island, Skagit and San Juan counties, accounted for 5 percent of the total state-wide vacancies, compared with the Seattle/King County area’s 44 percent, or 17,098.

“This is positive news for the thousands of people in our state who are hungry to get back to work,” said Employment Security Commissioner Karen Lee. “It will take a long time to create enough new jobs for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in our state, but at least we’re turning in the right direction.”

In terms of industries, vacancies were highest in health care, retail, and accommodation and food services. Registered nurses were in highest demand, with 2,318 openings. Software engineers were second with 1,929 openings.

According to the survey, there is a strong correlation between level of education and wages. The median wage rises with each increase in the level of education, peaking at $29.41 per hour for openings requiring a graduate degree.

An estimated 23 percent of job openings offered less than $10 per hour, 15 percent offered $10 to $15 per hour, and 4 percent offered $30 or more per hour.

Statewide, the median wage offered for the vacant positions was $10.60. In the Northwest region, the median was $9.45.

Jobs that had no educational requirements had a median wage of $8.75 per hour, compared to $10.20 per hour for jobs requiring a high school diploma. The median hourly wage for openings requiring a bachelor’s degree was $25.74.

The survey looks primarily at the private sector, but public-sector health care and education also are included.

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