Job vacancies, hiring on upswing in latest data from state

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 1, 2014 

Lynden Middle School

Lynden Middle School math teacher, Angie Dallas, works with students Jan. 16, 2014 at Lynden Middle School. Job openings in Washington state rose to their highest level in eight years in 2013, with math and science teachers among some of the high-demand jobs.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Job openings in Washington state rose to their highest level in eight years in 2013, and it's taking employers longer to fill those positions.

In a sign this state's job market continues to recover from the Great Recession, 86,636 job vacancies were reported in a survey taken last fall, up 23 percent from the fall 2012 survey and the highest total since the fall 2006 report, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department.

Even more striking is the number of days it is taking employers to fill those positions. According to the report, the average number of days to fill a position is 66, up from 19 days in 2012.

In another encouraging sign for job seekers, the survey of employers indicates even more job openings will be available soon. Employers expect Washington to have 154,547 openings this fall, with more than half of the future openings predicted to be in Western Washington's urban counties, which includes Whatcom.

The survey results indicate that the job market is getting back on track and many employers are optimistic about short-term growth, said Cynthia Forland, director of Labor Market and Performance Analysis for the state.

The one puzzling factor is the jump in number of days it takes on average to fill a position. Forland said the survey didn't ask for details on the increase, but it could be a variety of factors, including the possibility that there wasn't as much pressure to fill a position.

A difficulty in matching the right skills doesn't appear to be a significant issue. Forland pointed out that while the number of days to fill a position rose substantially, salaries did not. The estimated hourly wage for new hires was $13.69 an hour, 21 cents higher than a year ago. If it were a skill gap issue, Forland would have expected wages to rise dramatically to lure the smaller pool of qualified workers.

The occupational group with the most vacancies was farm workers and laborers, which is typical in the fall survey, Forland said. The occupations with the next highest vacancies were retail sales positions and office clerks.

In the STEM sector, which are jobs related to science, technology, engineering and math, the largest number of vacancies were for math/science teachers, computer science teachers, auto technicians and software developers.

For the full report, go to esd.wa.gov and click on the employment and economic information link on the left. Click the job vacancy link under recently published reports.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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