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Metropolitan King County Council

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Metropolitan King County Council
516 Third Ave., Rm. 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-477-1000
Toll Free: 800-325-6165
TTY/TDD: 206-296-1024
Fax: 206-296-0198
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April 26, 2011

Council committee engages in regional economy panel discussion

Economists, labor leader present regional economic forecasts to Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee

The Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee (TrEE) hosted a panel discussion today on the comparative economic advantages of the county, its current economic status, and what King County government can do to support economic growth. Panel members included Professor William Beyers from the University of Washington, Economic Forecaster Richard Conway of Dick Conway & Associates, and Labor Leader David Freiboth of the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council.

“King County government can’t fund a stimulus package, but we can take an active role in nurturing our region’s economic recovery and job growth,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the TrEE Committee. “Understanding how our economic infrastructure is evolving and what further changes are needed is critical for targeting economic recovery strategies.”

Dr. Beyers reported that the structure of Washington State’s economy has changed significantly. Foreign exports have increased as a share of economic output, and labor productivity has increased significantly. Wholesale trade and producer service make up an increasing share of the state’s economy, and professional jobs, a larger share of employment. According to the 2010 State New Economy Index, which scores states based on 26 indicators, including knowledge jobs, globalization, economic dynamism, the digital economy, and innovation capacity, Washington State ranks second in the country, with an overall score of 77.5 out of 100.

Dr. Conway reported that although the national economy showed signs of recovery in 2010, the recovery has created very little growth in employment. Only 800,000 jobs have been recovered from the more than 8 million lost during the recession. He forecasts that the Puget Sound region will add 37,200 jobs in 2011, reducing the unemployment rate from 9.1 percent to 8.6 percent. Dr. Conway also forecasts that King County will not make a full recovery in employment or sales tax receipts until the middle of 2014.

David Freiboth emphasized that it is critical to create living-wage jobs and that the statistics show manufacturing continues to be an important component of the region’s economy. He also described the work of the Labor Council’s Worker Center, which provides training and job placement for dislocated workers, as well as the Labor Council’s involvement on the board of the Workforce Development Council. The Labor Council is also a prime local partner with Apollo Alliance, a national organization promoting the development of green manufacturing jobs.

When asked what local governments can do to support the region’s economic recovery, the three panelists agreed that advocating for statewide tax reform should be the top priority. They stated that Washington State’s unique reliance on sales tax and business and occupation tax creates a volatile and regressive tax structure that leads to a negative business environment, and that forecasted revenue will not adequately support necessary public services, education and infrastructure.