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The Impact – Job Market and Inflation Trends

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

This week we’re taking a look at the economy and labor market in Washington.

Washington comes into 2024 with the highest state minimum wage in the country, $16.28 per hour for workers ages 16 and older. Some cities have higher minimum wage rates. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates that in recent years workers on the lowest end of the pay scale have seen faster wage growth than higher earning workers nationally, but that trend hasn’t held up in Washington where high wage tech workers have seen the largest increases in pay. 

The red hot job market coming out of the pandemic continues to cool. Washington’s unemployment rate grew by 0.7% from February 2023 to February 2024, and currently sits at 4.8% according to the BLS.

In other employment news, the Federal Trade Commission finalized a new rule banning any future non-compete clauses  in employment agreements and invalidating most of the non-compete agreements already in place, with the exception of senior executive positions.

A non-compete clause is a contractual arrangement which prohibits employees of a given company from working for the competition if they leave their jobs. 

FTC Chair Lin Khan issued a statement saying non-compete clauses keep wages low and suppress new ideas.

The US Chamber Of Commerce, which represents business interests, called the decision a blatant power grab. The organization is reportedly planning to sue over the non-compete rule.

Since 2019, Washington has had a state law limiting non-compete agreements to 18 months and only allowing them for jobs that pay more than 100 thousand dollars per year.

Chief Labor Economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman with the state Employment Security Department joined us this week to share her perspective on the labor market, inflation, and recent economic trends.

“For the most part, we’re still looking at a strong economy. job seekers generally when we’re seeing that low unemployment rate, what that means is that job seekers are generally connecting with employment and we are continuing to see job growth, although job growth has been slowing in recent, in the last couple of years. That’s all relative. A couple years ago, coming out of the pandemic, we were looking at 15, 20% year over year growth, and now we’re closer to a 1% year over year growth. So we’re slowing. Some industries are continuing to grow. Some are dropping off a little bit. But for the most part, the economy is strong. The labor market is looking good right now in Washington state,” said Vance-Sherman.

Watch the full interview here: