January 6, 2012
Experts optimistic about Seattle's job market in 2012
Will 2012 be the year Seattle’s job market recovers from the recession? Arun Raha, chief economist for Washington state and the executive director of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, believes the Emerald City is headed in the right direction.
“This year will certainly be better than 2011,” Raha says. “Recovery takes a while, but I believe we’re more than halfway through this. It’ll just take a bit more time and patience.”
According to the state Employment Security Department, the city’s unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in November, the most recent figure available — a significant drop from 9.1 percent the previous year.
“We’re still 134,000 jobs below where we were when the economy fell off in February 2008,” says Raha, “but I’m optimistic about 2012 for the Seattle area.”
Tech sector soars
Technology-savvy job seekers are expected to be some of the most sought-after this year and beyond. “The tech sector has really been growing,” says Raha. “And it’s anticipated to keep growing.”
The Seattle area is home to dozens of tech-focused startups as well as major corporations that are hiring, including Microsoft, Expedia and Nintendo. Amazon.com has more than 1,000 job openings in IT, website production and software development in its expanding Seattle offices.
Move over, Silicon Valley — in November, Forbes named Seattle the No. 1 city for high-tech job growth. According to the Washington state Employment Security Department, employment in the information sector reached its highest level on record in 2011.
“We’ve been very busy with tech temp and direct-hire positions,” says Phil Gates, branch manager of Robert Half Technology’s Seattle location. “The supply of qualified candidates isn’t keeping up with the growing demand.”
And the Emerald City is about to be in need of even more tech talent. Seattle has become a sought-after satellite location for some of Silicon Valley’s biggest players, including Google, Facebook, Zynga and Salesforce.com. In the case of the first two, their engineering centers are expanding here.
Google announced a new Puget Sound location this summer, which means the Internet-services giant has three campuses in the region: in the Fremont neighborhood, Kirkland and now Bothell.
Facebook’s Seattle presence is also increasing in 2012. The popular social network’s office is moving to a new location that’s double the size of its current Pike Place office. “This move will give us room to keep growing, as we continue hiring the best engineers we can find,” Facebook software engineer Ari Steinberg wrote on — where else? — the Facebook Seattle page.
--Katie Ormsby / Special to NWjobs
It’s no secret that programmers and software engineers are hot commodities. But a recent Robert Half Technology study predicts that demand for a handful of lesser-known positions will surge this year. The IT staffing agency points to emerging careers such as mobile applications developer and user experience (UX) designer.
The popularity of smartphones and tablets has created a strong need for IT professionals with the ability to develop for the small screen, according to Phil Gates, manager of Robert Half Technology’s Seattle branch.
In November, Microsoft introduced the Samsung Focus Flash with Windows Phone 7 technology. The mobile device made a splash because of its $49.99 price tag, but also notable is the number of positions that need to be filled — nearly 80 Windows Phone software engineering jobs are listed on the company’s career website.
Similarly, Amazon’s recent introduction of the Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire suggests that the e-commerce giant is serious about competing in the world of tablets. A search for Amazon jobs on NWjobs.com returns more than 1,900 positions.
And because so much customer interaction happens online, Gates says demand for UX designers is high. “Companies are investing in efforts to make the experience as positive as possible,” he says. “Websites have become storefronts, so companies want to make sure they attract visitors.”
Local digital agency POP has been keeping busy with user experience projects for the likes of Target, the Metropolitan Opera and Amazon. Crafting experiences for the web is about much more than simply design, says Laura Porto Stockwell, the agency’s vice president of experience strategy.
“It’s like a complex problem or puzzle,” Porto Stockwell says. “We start with user research; ask, ‘What does the user need?’ There’s lots of market research before we get to the nuts and bolts of the site’s architecture. Bottom line: Our goal is to make the experience so easy and positive that the technology becomes invisible.”
Aerospace a bright spot
Demand for aerospace employees is also expected to continue flying high. According to the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council’s November review, the aerospace sector has added 9,100 jobs since May 2010.
December brought more good news for the industry: Boeing’s production workforce accepted the aerospace corporation’s extended contract. This agreement ensures that the 737 MAX, a new aircraft, will be assembled in Renton.
Additionally, the local aerospace workforce is expected to be affected by an upcoming slew of retiring baby boomers. “There is going to be a ‘graying out’ of the industry in the next couple of years,” says Marléna Sessions, CEO of the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. With these retirements come career opportunities for young job seekers in professions that include engineering and manufacturing.
Staffing shortages in health care
Health care is another reliable sector for job openings, as it continues to suffer from a chronic case of worker shortage. “It is the only sector that hasn’t suffered due to the state of the economy,” Raha says.
Licensed practical nurses and registered nurses routinely rank high on King County’s list of occupations with the highest number of openings. And other health-care specialists are in short supply, says Sessions.
“Medical receptionists used to mainly sit at the front desk, greeting patients,” she says. “Now these employees are becoming more involved with medical coding, so there’s a growing demand for candidates with that ability. Certified nursing assistants are another in-demand career to consider.”
The job market hasn’t completely recovered from the recession, but Raha says there’s yet another reason to be hopeful about 2012 — temporary positions. “We’ve been seeing more and more temp hires, and the hiring of temps is expected to be robust in the coming year.”
This is a very positive sign, Raha says, because it suggests that employers are closer to committing to more full-time, permanent positions.
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