Nickels Is Right: Locally Speaking, the Last Recession Was Worse

In recounting his list of accomplishments in his quasi-job interview with the P-I today, Greg Nickels said something that might raise a few eyebrows:

I came into office at a time when we were in a very deep recession. It was actually, locally, worse than the current one.

Could the post 9/11, post-dot-com-bubble downturn actually have been worse than our current fiasco? At the City Council meeting today, the city finance department said that's the case.

Using data and forecasts provided by local economist Dick Conway, the city showed that the 2001-2003 recession was a lot worse locally than this one--with its threat of global financial collapse--is even projected to be. (See the full presentation in this pdf.) Job losses during that recession peaked after 10 quarters at about 5%, whereas after three quarters, the local job losses in this one are only 2.7%, and are expected to peak in the 6th quarter, at just under 4%.


(These are just forecasts, of course--it may be worth noting that the local employment drop since August is steeper than the drop at any point in the last recession.)

Basically, the last recession was worse here than everywhere else because Boeing--still the area's biggest employer--was slashing jobs (27,200 over three years). Job losses were 2% nationally, 4.8% in the four-county Puget Sound region, and 6.6% in King and Snohomish counties.

By contrast, the current recession has been worst in manufacturing centers (e.g. Detroit), areas with big housing bubbles (e.g. Phoenix), and areas dependent on tourism and in-migration (e.g. Las Vegas). Compared to their losses and to our own a few years ago, this local downturn has been modest.

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