Mike McGinn Has a New Jobs Plan, but Will It (or Anything Else) Ever Be Enough?

Standing in front of an MSR tent and Thermarest mattresses at Cascade Designs in SoDo yesterday, Mayor Mike McGinn unveiled the city's plan to distribute $50 million in the form of small loans to local businesses (mostly from private lenders) and use a $20 million federal grant to hire workers to make buildings and homes in the city more energy efficient. It's an ambitious plan that McGinn hopes will add 10,000 jobs locally over the next few years. But it also shows why it's so hard to bring the state and city's persistently high unemployment rates (hovering between 8 and 9 percent) down. If successful, McGinn's plan will recover less than 10 percent of the jobs lost in Puget Sound during the recession.

According to Steve Johnson, Director of the Seattle Office of Economic Development, the Puget Sound area lost 125,000 jobs in 2008 and 2009. That's more than half of the number of jobs lost in the recession statewide as companies like Boeing and Microsoft laid off thousands of employees, Washington Mutual and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer folded, and the construction industry ground to a halt.

As we report in this week's cover story, "Charity Mace", only 23,000 jobs have been returned statewide in the so-called "recovery" this year.

McGinn hopes to create a variety of jobs. The money targeted for retrofitting should put some builders back to work, and the small loans are meant to help business owners hire a couple more staff for their tech start-up, retail store, or restaurant.

But it shows just how insurmountable the problem of joblessness in the area is (and how so many people came to be still looking after 99 weeks of collecting unemployment benefits) if an investment as large as $70 million can't put a significant dent in the number of people still out of work.

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