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Whatcom County’s job growth is among the best in the U.S. Here’s why

Best and worst states for jobs in 2019

Personal finance website WalletHub released its list of best and worst states for jobs in 2019. Massachusetts came in at number 1, followed by Washington at number 2.
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Personal finance website WalletHub released its list of best and worst states for jobs in 2019. Massachusetts came in at number 1, followed by Washington at number 2.

Whatcom County has had a strong five-year run when it comes to employment growth.

On July 30 USA Today published a list of the metro areas with the best employment growth between May 2014 and May 2019. The Bellingham metro area (Whatcom County) ranked 20th highest on the list, joining several other regional metro areas on the list.

According to the article, Whatcom County’s employment increased 16.9% in that five-year period, adding 15,858 jobs. The data used in the article came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

St. George, Utah, topped the list with 25.7% growth over the five-year period. Boise (7th highest), Wenatchee (12th), Olympia (13th) and Kennewick (15th) also made the list.

Whatcom’s five-year growth rate is more than double the 7.3% national job growth. The article also noted that Whatcom’s population growth rate was 9.5% between 2013-2018, much higher than the 3.5% national growth rate over the same period.

The small metro areas on the list are finally seeing the percentage growth major metro areas like Seattle posted earlier in the decade, said Hart Hodges, director at Western Washington University’s Center for Economic Business Research.

“We’ve seen a bit of balancing out, so to speak, in the data in recent years,” Hodges said in an email to The Bellingham Herald.

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Part of the reason is the cost of living is lower in the smaller metro areas and more people are commuting/telecommuting, Hodges said. While companies in smaller communities added workers, people living in smaller communities are also working for companies based in metro areas.

The USA Today article noted strong employment growth in the public sector as well as manufacturing. However, the biggest jump in that period came in the construction industry, which added 3,100 jobs.

One reason for the strong Whatcom construction rebound was because the industry was hit especially hard during the last recession and took longer than other industries to rebound, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist for the state, in an email.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.
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