Region adds nearly 60,000 jobs in 2016

The central Puget Sound economy continues to grow at a fast pace. In 2016, the four-county region added 59,400 jobs — the seventh consecutive year of job growth.


During the last five years, job growth has been especially robust. The region added more jobs than during any five-year period since the early 1990s.

The region gained 270,900 jobs between 2011 and 2016, compared to loss of 21,700 jobs in the previous five-year period from 2006 to 2011.

All four central Puget Sound counties — King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap — gained new jobs, but most growth occurred in King and Snohomish counties, at an annual growth rate of 3.25%.


Services sector has highest job growth

The services sector, which includes jobs from information technology (IT), business services, and recreation and food services, experienced its highest annual growth rate (4.06%) since 2001.



Unemployment rate lowest in last decade

Regionwide the unemployment rate dropped by 17% in 2016, to 4.3% — the lowest unemployment rate in the last decade. King, Pierce and Snohomish counties all experienced reductions in unemployment rates over the past year. Kitsap County observed an increase in the unemployment rate from 5.4% to 5.7% in 2016.

For more data on regional employment, check out our latest issue of Puget Sound Trends.


Driven by light rail, transit ridership keeps growing

Monthly boardings on the region’s transit system were up approximately 3.6% in the first seven months of 2016 and continue to outpace employment and population growth. Light rail boardings have accounted for over 10% of the overall transit boardings so far this year.

Transit ridership is up 14% from the same six month period in 2011.

Transit ridership is up 14% over the same six month period in 2011.

Almost 3.8 million more boardings took place in the first seven months of 2016 than in 2015, which is a total of 108.8 million boardings through July 2016. Transit ridership is up 14% since July of 2011. There were 13.3 million more boardings in the first seven months of 2016 compared to the first seven months of 2011.

Light rail boardings have increased faster than any other transit mode in the first seven months of 2016. This increase is driven by the opening of the new light rail stations in Capitol Hill and at the University of Washington and has resulted in an additional 3.5 million boardings in the first seven months of 2016 (a 47% increase).

Bus ridership over this time period has remained fairly consistent at approximately 95 million boardings through July 2016, still at all-time record levels for the region.

Commuter rail boardings have also continued to increase with overall boardings increasing by almost 300,000 in the first seven months of 2016 (a 13.4% increase).

Although overall ridership has increased across the region, there are noticeable differences in the change in transit ridership across agencies. Sound Transit ridership has grown the most rapidly over the last three years, driven by growth across all its modes including ST Express bus, Light Rail and Commuter Rail. King County Metro and Community Transit have also experienced noticeable increases in transit ridership over the past three years. Kitsap and Everett transit ridership have remained fairly steady since 2014 with a slight decrease over the first seven months of 2016 whereas Pierce Transit has experienced a noticeable drop in ridership since 2014.

See the full Trend, here.

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On pace for another record year at Sea-Tac Airport

Over 26 million passengers passed through Sea-Tac in the first seven months of 2016 — 2.2 million more than the record-setting first seven months of 2015 (a 9.4% increase).

In July alone, over 4.7 million passengers passed through the airport – the highest ever for that month. July and August are traditionally the busiest months for airline travel and on average account for over 20% of all travel during the year.

Alaska Airlines Group, which includes Horizon, moved more than 45% of passengers in July.  The second largest carrier was Delta Airlines, with about 20% of the market.

Air cargo growing

After several months of flat air cargo movement, June and July both witnessed robust increases in air cargo. Over 202,390 metric tons of air cargo passed through the airport in the first seven months of 2016 (a 2.7% increase). A majority of this increase occurred in June and July — 14-20% higher than the same months in 2015.

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Regional transit ridership growth still going strong

Monthly transit boardings were up about 3.6% in the first five months of 2016, once again outpacing employment and population growth.


Over the past five years, transit ridership is up over 13% since May of 2011.

Boardings on all modes of public transit have increased so far in 2016.

The Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium stations have greatly contributed to increased light rail ridership, where boardings were up almost 5% between April and May of 2016 alone.

Boardings on regional ferry routes have also increased over 2015 levels for every month in 2016 so far, for a total of 9.6 million boardings between January and May 2016.

See the full trend for additional data.

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Region surging to 4 million people

Population in the central Puget Sound region reached 3,985,040 in April 2016, growing by 86,320 people in the past year. This is the biggest gain since 1980.

Since 1960 there have been five different times when the region added over 80,000 people.

Since 1960 there have been five different times when the region added over 80,000 people.

It is hard to know exactly when it will happen, but based on the current rate of population growth (about 236 people per day), we have likely already surpassed 4 million people in our region, maybe as early as the first week of June.

Every county is growing

King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties all experienced population growth this past year. King County grew by 52,300 people (2.5%) while Kitsap grew by 4,390 (1.7%), Pierce by 14,370 (1.7%), and Snohomish by 15,260 (2%).

Historic context
The level of population growth is not unprecedented.

In the late 1960s, the region was growing at almost 5% per year — twice the torrid rate we experienced this past year.

In general, these rapid population changes have occurred over 2 to 3 years before settling back to a steadier rate of change. If that trend continues, we can expect another year or two of heightened population growth.

More information on population trends is available here.

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Diverse services sector drives region’s job growth

The region has gained 17,300 jobs since January of this year, with 3,700 new jobs added in April 2016 alone.

The services sector added the most jobs in the last year, followed by retail and wholesale trade, transportation, & utilities.

The services sector added the most jobs in the last year, followed by retail and wholesale trade, transportation, & utilities.

The main driver is the services sector – which includes a variety of jobs you might not expect like IT, business services, recreation and food services, and more.

Services gained about 35,000 jobs over the past year, 13,000 more than it did between April 2014 and April 2015.

The construction sector grew at 5.1%, the fastest annual growth rate between April 2015 and April 2016, while the manufacturing sector experienced slight job declines.

Job growth since April 2015 has averaged 3.2% (63,000 jobs), about 6% more than the 59,000 jobs added between April 2014 and April 2015.

King and Snohomish counties continue to have the highest job growth in the region.

Read more, here.

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Puget Sound region has fastest-growing transit ridership in U.S.

At a rate of 3.6% per year, the region’s transit boardings have grown faster than any other large metropolitan area in the United States since 2005.

The region has the highest vanpool rate in the country by over 1 million users.

The region has the highest vanpool rate in the country by over 1 million users.

The next fastest growing area is Tampa-St. Petersburg at around 3.1%. Puget Sound’s annual transit growth is three times faster than the Portland Metro region.

The region also has the distinction of being the vanpool capital of the country — exceeding the next closest region of Los Angeles County by over 1 million vanpool trips a year. Note that Los Angeles County is over 10 million people and we are about 3.9 million, our vanpool boardings per capita are almost three times higher than Los Angeles.

Find out more, here.


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