COVID-19 Updated Market Insights for Seattle

Seattle – Strong Technology Sector Not Enough to Stem Losses in Manufacturing 

Seattle lost 249,400 jobs, or 14.3%, year over year according to the April results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate of decline ranked 57th of 82 metros and slightly worse than most of its west coast peers including San Francisco (-13.5%), San Diego (-12.3%), Los Angeles (-14.5%), San Jose (-10.8%), Portland (-12.5%) and Oakland (-14.9%). Moreover, Seattle’s unemployment rate jumped to 16.3% in April, higher than most of its west coast peers except for Los Angeles that had an unemployment rate of 20.3%. These numbers, however, are preliminary and subject to change. 


Looking for additional insights? Explore our interactive COVID-19 map to analyze the potential impact on commercial real estate markets.


Of Seattle’s losses 40.1% or 100,000 jobs were in the leisure and hospitality sector. This equates to a rate of decline of 57.8%. The retail sector shed another 19,800 jobs, a decline of 10.3%. Netting out these two concentrated sectors puts the remaining year-over-year rate of job decline at 9.4% which ranked 59th of 82 metros, or in the bottom 25. The U.S equivalent decline net of leisure, hospitality and retail was 8.0%, and the metro average decline was 8.3%. 

Looking a bit deeper into the industries shows that Seattle’s manufacturing sector lost 14,400 jobs, year over year, a decline of 8.7%. These include many Boeing jobs that had been in danger given the struggle it faced with the 737 Max design, and later the shutdown in travel. Reports of 10% layoffs were announced in early April. On a brighter note, Seattle’s information sector added 5,600 jobs year over year, a growth rate of 4.6%. These are likely Microsoft jobs that have remained stable throughout the pandemic. 

Seattle’s total office sector (that includes information, finance, real estate and professional business services) shed only 12,100 jobs year over year, which was a rate of decline of 4.8%. This ranked 26th best of 82 metros and was close to Portland’s 5.0% decline but not as low as San Francisco and San Jose’s declines of 0.9% and 2.2%, respectively. The metro average office year-over-year decline was 6.6%, while the national rate of decline was 6.8%. 

To put these jobs in perspective, Seattle’s seasonally adjusted job gain over the last expansion was 402,900 jobs, a growth rate of 29%. The recent seasonally adjusted loss of jobs accounted for 71% of the gains in the recent expansion.  This ratio ranked 32nd best of 82 metros. For the national average the recent loss represents a decline of 94% of the net gain during the expansion, while the metro average decline was 83% of the net expansion gain. 

Despite getting hit with COVID cases earlier and harder than most metros, cases have only remained flat through June, they have not changed much since early May. This lack of decline could spell trouble if too much of the economy opensAlthough most but not all leisure, hospitality and retail jobs will return when the full shutdown ends, other small businesses could shed jobs once their payroll protection funding runs out in July or August. Thus Seattle is not out of the woods yet. The outlook remains uncertainty until the virus is contained and/or the PPP is renewed.  


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