Washington by the numbers

Our state turned in some good economic numbers recently.  Washington added over 100,000 jobs from March 2014 to March 2015, according to the Washington Employment Security Department’s most recent monthly employment report. (Private sector added 88,900 jobs while the public sector gained an estimated 12,000 jobs.) The department also reported expansions in state economic growth outpacing that of the nation in its 2014 Labor Market and Employment Report released in March. And, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that personal income for Washingtonians rose to $350 billion, or about $49,600 per person, in 2014.

Those are good numbers.  However, as Opportunity Washington reports in its “Our View” blog, the national economy may be showing some signs of stalling  and “while the state economy, largely fueled by the Puget Sound metro area, remains relatively strong, continued declines in the national economy can exert a drag that affects all states.”

That’s why policies that will boost economic opportunity throughout Washington state continue to be important. Get more detail at Opportunity Washington or download our coalition roadmap for expanding prosperity and opportunity to all of Washington state.

New Report: Washington’s Top Transportation Challenges

We’re lucky to live in a growing state. However, the evidence that our state is outgrowing its current transportation system keeps stacking up.

Released today, a new report by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization finds Washington state faces, “numerous challenges in providing a transportation system that is safe, well-maintained, efficient and adequately funded.”

The report, Washington’s Top Transportation Challenges: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Efficient Mobility and Economic Vitality finds:

  • 34% of urban pavements and 22% of rural pavements are in poor condition
  • Washington drivers spend $2.9 billion ($551 per driver) on vehicle operating costs related to rough roads (accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, increased fuel consumption and tire wear)
  • 22% of the state’s bridges don’t meet current highway designs standards
  • Major economic corridors are experiencing significant increases in delays

Additional costs, delays and safety concerns choke commerce and commutes.

In a recent op-ed, Roundtable President Steve Mullin urged state lawmakers to agree on a bipartisan package to improve Washington’s transportation system and fund projects important to Washington families and employers.

“Lawmakers have a real opportunity, the first in a decade, to make strategic transportation investments that would pay substantial dividends for decades to come.”

Without an investment in transportation this legislative session, Washington will miss out on opportunities for economic growth and face reduced quality of life for its citizens.  The clock is winding down on this year’s legislative session. The legislature needs to take action on this critical issue.

Smarter Balanced is a critical academic check-up

This spring, students across Washington are taking the Smarter Balanced assessments in math and English language arts for the first time.  There’s a lot to know about what the tests measure, how they are administered, and what to expect when the results come in.  Ready Washington, a statewide coalition of education agencies, associations and advocacy organizations, has developed some great informational materials to help answer many of these questions.

Take four minutes to check on this video on what Smarter Balanced is and how the results can be used to ensure students are on track to career and college readiness:

Or spend two minutes watching this video to get a run-down on what kind of assessments are included in the Smarter Balanced system:

Will these test be fun?  As Stand for Children CEO Jonah Edelman wrote recently:

No one loves tests though, of course, life is full of them. But if tests align to what students are learning in the classroom and are smart, they’re incredibly useful.
They can help parents really know whether their children are on track in math and English language arts so parents can partner with teachers to address kids’ challenges when they’re still resolvable and before their kids can’t get into college, struggle in college, or can’t get or keep good jobs.

The tests can also help teachers know where they’re solid and where they might need to improve, and also help the next grade’s teachers know what kind of support incoming students might need.

Finally, they can help administrators know which teachers and schools are exemplary and which need extra attention and support.

In a nutshell, that’s why these tests are so important. They help families, teachers and school administrators gauge progress, course correct when needed, and ensure students are on track to career and college readiness.

As The Seattle Times recently editorialized:

By no means do tests provide a full picture of a student’s achievements, but they are an important tool for determining what students have learned and their skill levels, where they need to improve and how they rank among their peers — within the same classroom and across the country.

Get more information from these resources:



Help Wanted: Washington #3 in the nation for job opportunities for college grads

A new study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce pegs Washington as one of the three states with the most job openings for college graduates.  The study examines the geographic distribution of online job ads (estimating that between 60 to 70 percent of job openings are now advertising online) and finds that:

Across all occupations, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Washington state have the most favorable online college labor markets.

There are great opportunities in Washington and, increasingly, those opportunities are requiring education or training beyond high school.  In fact, by the end of this decade, an estimated 70 percent of jobs in Washington state will require postsecondary training.  But only 50 percent of Washington adults have such a credential today. (Check out the “Achieve” section of the Opportunity Washington roadmap for more detail.)

There is a persistent gap between the skills that job candidates have and the skills that Washington’s employers need. Just two years ago, a Boston Consulting Group study found 25,000 jobs had gone unfilled in our state because employers couldn’t find qualified candidates.  The number is expected to double to 50,000 by 2017.

Our state must do better.  As work on the state budget continues this month, lawmakers should prioritize higher education funding and position the state’s postsecondary system to support economic opportunity through better alignment with workforce needs and increased capacity in high-demand STEM programs.

For more on our take on the issue, check out our 2015 Policy Agenda or this Puget Sound Business Journal column from Roundtable President Steve Mullin.  Skip to the end:

Today’s students need more skills than ever before to compete for great opportunities, here and around the world.  A strong higher education system is the most powerful tool Washington has to ensure students get those much needed skills and to spread opportunity and shared prosperity.