While the Great Recession is behind us, job growth has not been as robust as in past recoveries. Recent signs indicate Pierce County is moving in the right direction, but the climb is still steep and many challenges lie ahead. Helping businesses find qualified talent and putting jobseekers on a path to training and employment is essential to our region’s ongoing recovery. To a large extent, the strength of our workforce and its ability to meet the needs of industry will determine whether we sustain the growth in years ahead.
This report examines the state of the workforce within Pierce County, Washington. It aims to understand the balance between workforce supply and industry demand. In an ideal world, the skill, expertise and quantity of the workforce closely aligns with the needs of industry. This is not a perfect science as it requires balance between the size and quality of the workforce and the jobs available now and in the future. Understanding the potential misalignments is crucial to shaping our region’s workforce and economic development policies, strategies and investments to progress toward the ideal state of balancing workforce supply and industry demand.
The first section is a brief overview of the labor market in Pierce County. In the following sections, we dive deeper into what makes up our labor force supply, look at the youth pipeline and review what jobs are in demand.
In order to ensure Pierce County’s long-term economic vibrancy, we must continue to strengthen public and private partnerships that advance the key strategies most likely to result in the desired outcomes.
Pierce County has many assets. Advanced manufacturing, along with its living wage jobs in engineering, machining, warehousing and distribution, plays an important role in Pierce County, employing 6% of the county’s workforce. With the decision to build the Boeing 777X in Washington State, manufacturing will continue to be a growth industry.
Healthcare employs 14% of the County’s workforce.
Healthcare is a growing industry and offers living wages with advancement opportunities. Almost all of these careers require a good understanding of science and math with training and/or education beyond high school.
Almost one-third of the employees in Pierce County work in services, insurance, banking and information with an additional one-quarter working in the retail and hospitality industries. These sectors continue to grow, examples being recent additions of State Farm and Walmart. State Farm will ultimately add up to 1000 jobs in Pierce County, which is over one-third of all jobs created in 2013.
Pierce County also has some challenges. Educational attainment in Pierce County is behind that of neighboring counties and also the state overall. In 2012, Pierce County residents trail their neighbors and the state by up to 14% in attaining education past high school. Another future challenge is the aging workforce. Since 2000, workers 55+ have increased from 11% to 19% of the total labor force, making employers assess their need to make necessary accommodations to retain this talent.
Earning a living wage is also a challenge.
Median earnings in Pierce County increased about 40% from 2000 to 2007 and have stayed
virtually stagnant since then, actually decreasing by 1%. A living wage in Pierce County for one
adult and two children is estimated at about $50,000, while the annual median earnings for
all workers in 2012 was about $36,000.
As the Workforce Investment Board for Pierce County, WorkForce Central understands that workforce development and economic development are the touchstones of a prosperous community. Increased efforts to align workforce supply with industry demand, while also working to grow industries with living wage jobs, are essential to continue building a strong economy. WorkForce Central is uniquely positioned to lead this work through our broad partnerships with industry, education, labor, government, and community as we work together to bridge the gap between disciplines, resources, and jurisdictions.