Survey predicts Washington's job openings will grow

In a survey last spring, Washington employers reported they expect to nearly double their job openings by spring 2014.

According to the Employment Security Department’s “2013 Spring Job-Vacancy and Hiring Survey Report,” job vacancies in Washington increased by 63 percent, from nearly 52,000 in spring 2012 to more than 85,000 in spring 2013.

More than two-thirds of the 2013 vacancies were in the west urban area of the state. Also, 26 percent of the total vacancies were newly created positions, compared to 22 percent a year earlier. More than three-fourths of the total vacancies were permanent positions.

The industries with the most vacancies last spring were health care and social assistance, with 11,430 vacancies; accommodation and food services, with 11,404 vacancies; and a category called administrative and support and waste management, with 10,089 vacancies.

For the first time, the Employment Security Department asked employers how many vacancies they expected to have 12 months in the future. Employers said they anticipate having 157,214 vacancies during spring 2014, almost double the vacancies they reported for spring 2013. More than half will be in the west urban area of the state.

Employment Security surveys employers twice a year about their job vacancies and new hiring.

“The employment picture in early 2013 was the strongest and most optimistic we’ve seen in several years,” said Cynthia Forland, who heads the labor-market research office at Employment Security, in a news release.

The spring 2013 report also showed that employers increased their non-internal hiring last winter by 33 percent, from about 118,000 during the first quarter of 2012 to about 157,000 for the same time period a year later.  Nearly 64 percent of the new hires occurred in the west urban areas of the state.

However, starting wages in the west urban area of the state took a hit. Statewide, the average starting wage for new hires in early 2013 was $13.67, compared to $15.45 a year earlier. The decline was driven largely by a large drop in the average starting wage in the west urban area, which fell from $16.84 in 2012 to $14.85 in 2013.

Researchers said the drop in the average wage is likely connected to the increased hiring in low-wage occupations, such as farmworkers, customer service and freight laborers, as well as lower wages offered in some of those occupations compared to a year ago.

The full report is posted online.

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