Good news for Washington job seekers: Job vacancies, hiring up in latest data from state

Both hiring and the number of job openings are up in Washington, the state Employment Security Department reported Monday.

In its latest data set, “2013 Fall Job-Vacancy and Hiring Survey Report,” ESD noted that job vacancies in the state have increased 23 percent, from 70,400 in the fall of 2012 through 86,600 in the fall of 2013.

Estimated hiring rose nearly 1 percent from some 190,200 positions in 2012 to nearly 209,100 in 2013, an ESD release stated.

In contrast to 2012, employers last fall reported that vacant positions remained open for more than two months, for an average of some 66 days, before being filled. That stands against an average the year before of 19 days.

Cynthia Forland, director of labor market and performance analysis at ESD, said Monday that the agency is unsure why this major difference has appeared.

“We don’t know,” she said. “It certainly jumped out at us. We do know there were folks who were discouraged and went out of the labor force.”

Also, she said, “the average estimated hourly wage has stayed pretty stable. If wages aren’t coming up enough, that might be making it harder to fill those jobs.”

Forslund remained sanguine following Monday’s news.

“Any time you see the number of vacancies going up, that tells you there’s an optimistic view out there,” she said.

Monday’s report further noted that more than half of the vacant positions in the state were located in urban areas of Western Washington.

Urban areas accounted for nearly 82 percent of all new hires between July and September 2013, the report found.

The occupational group with the most vacancies was farmworkers and laborers, with more than 13,000 vacancies, or 15 percent of the total. The farmworker group also comprised nearly 13 percent of total hires, which was greater than found in any other occupational group.

Last fall, according to the report, the average estimated hourly wage for new hires in the state was $13.69, up from $13.48 reported the year before.