Economic development in Pierce County has included a focus on the “creative economy”. In 2016, Tacoma was named as a “Maker City” by online creative marketplace Etsy based on its growing number of micro-entrepreneurs who have worked with local government to achieve success. Despite the artistic undercurrent, none of those jobs rank in the top-employing industries in Pierce County. In fact, Pierce County unemployment rates are higher than state and national averages, suggesting that the county is still recovering from the Great Recession. Of the Pierce County residents that are employed, the Washington State Employment Security Department states that, “more than 25 percent of the workforce in Pierce County travels to jobs in King County.”
Locally, the top employing industries in Pierce County include: healthcare support, personal care and service, and retail-related jobs. Many of these jobs are among the lowest paying occupation groups in the county. All three of these occupation groups provide a borderline living wage for single adults and families with two working parents. On the other hand, these same three occupation groups do not provide a living wage for single-parent families. This is significant because according to American Community Survey, 32% of children in Pierce County grow up in a single-parent household.
Overall, the data suggests there is a need to build out private sector jobs located inside the county. Pierce County Economic Development Board is working toward that goal by providing resources for companies looking to relocate or open in Pierce County. Indicators show that progress toward these goals is being made. For example, Tacoma was also recently named one of the best mid-size cities for tech companies by CyberTrend Magazine.
Organizations throughout the region are collaborating and working to improve job training, provide employment support and develop private sector business in Pierce County. The solutions for these statistics are being addressed through coalitions and networks. For example, Workforce Central works within a network of public and private partners and stakeholders in the areas of business, labor, education, military, government, and community organizations to drive economic growth in Pierce County. With a stronger economy, we create more living wage jobs that allow more individuals and families to take care of their basic needs like food, shelter and healthcare. Vibrant economic systems also strengthen our local governments, social services and schools. The overall health of our community and its people is truly reliant on an interconnected web of social, economic and environmental factors.
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