Spokane’s Workforce Weathers COVID-19 Well
While COVID-19 posed significant challenges to Washington’s workforce in 2020 and 2021, Spokane County fared better than most in terms of unemployment. According to Opportunity Insights, an economic tracker produced by Harvard University, Spokane outperformed larger counties like King County and Washington state overall at keeping people working throughout the pandemic, despite the economic downturn and supply chain disruptions.
In fact, Spokane’s unemployment rate is at an all-time low of just 3.5 percent, and though the total net jobs created has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, it is up dramatically from its low of –9.03 percent in Q2 of 2020 and continues to steadily climb.
These statistics come from the Recovery Vitals, a set of 30 key economic indicators created by the Association of Washington Business Institute (AWBI), and provide one way to track Spokane’s ongoing recovery. These easy-to-use numbers show how Washington state and its individual counties are getting their economies back on track. AWBI’s partners at the Eastern Washington University Institute for Public Policy & Economic Analysis regularly update the Recovery Vitals—just one part of Washington in the Making, a framework for the state’s recovery that envisions lasting prosperity for every community.
GSI Supports Homegrown Talent
We know talent is one of the key factors companies look for when relocating or growing their business. As the largest labor market in eastern Washington and northern Idaho, Spokane County is home to more than 250,000 people in the workforce and 77,000 students enrolled in higher education institutions. While these numbers represent a healthy talent pool, GSI’s Education and Talent Team offers programs for young people and adults to explore career pathways and expand their skills.
Career Connected Learning
Career-connected learning is all about helping students gain real-world experience to explore career options and relevant classroom learning to prepare for the future. These programs benefit everyone involved; young people benefit from access to multiple career opportunities, and our community and businesses benefit from a highly skilled workforce.
GSI supports several programs related to career-connected learning, including Business AfterSchool and Teaching the Teachers. Business AfterSchool is a series of experiential workshops hosted by local businesses for sixth- through 12th-grade students in the greater Spokane region, while Teaching the Teacher offers similar workshops to educators wanting to learn about the skills students will need to open doors after high school.
Spokane STEM Network
GSI is also invested in enhancing STEM education opportunities for all youth in the region. In partnership with NorthEast Washington Education Service District 101, GSI staffs Spokane STEM Network, a program dedicated to growing the number of students pursuing and achieving success in STEM careers.
In 2020, the Spokane STEM Network was awarded a $50,000 grant to connect students living in rural communities via virtual career fairs to career and technical education programs and local employers.
Greater Minds, another GSI initiative, is a regional collaboration of the higher education and business communities to help working adults complete their degrees. To increase the proportion of residents in Spokane County with high-quality degrees or certificates, we’ll continue to work toward our goal of having 60 percent of residents with job-ready degrees or certificates by 2025.
Taken together, these programs and initiatives demonstrate GSI and Spokane’s commitment to fostering homegrown talent to meet the needs of nearby industries now and in the future.