Op-ed by Director Lisa Brown: How the coronavirus changed Washington state’s economy

“If we are to build back stronger, we must confront the inequities within our workforce and communities that have been exposed.”

(Op-ed published in Crosscut on March 9, 2021)

It seems so long ago and yet just like yesterday when countries around the world began initiating shutdowns in response to a deadly virus we knew almost nothing about. Companies shifted millions of employees to telework. Schools closed. Offices and storefronts were shuttered. In-person events were canceled. For a while we wondered if these changes would be temporary. They were not.

Screenshot of an online dashboard showing the changes and trends in metrics like employment levels, retail sales, time spent outside the home and more. A map of the state shows year over year employment rate changes in each county.
Screenshot of an online dashboard showing the changes and trends in metrics like employment levels, retail sales, time spent outside the home and more. A map of the state shows year over year employment rate changes in each county.
Commerce’s economic recovery dashboard tracks several metrics related to Washington’s economic recovery. Several of these metrics can be broken down to view trends across different industries, in each county of the state, and among major demographic groups.
  • A disproportionate percentage of Pacific Islander, Black and Latino workers are filing unemployment claims. This correlates to the industries where a disproportionate share of those in the workforce are people of color, such as the service sector. The people more likely to be caring for our children, tending to the sick, serving food, stocking groceries, cleaning streets and keeping daily life moving are struggling the most.
  • People are currently spending 14% less time out and about than before the pandemic. This means we’re not driving, ride sharing or taking public transportation as much. Significant numbers of people working from home means fewer stops to coffee shops, lunch spots and dry cleaners. Even where it is possible to shop or eat out, some people no longer have the financial means to do so, while others are choosing to limit activities until they feel safer.

Washington State Department of Commerce official news and information. Our mission is to strengthen communities in our state.

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