The Big Reset: How The Puget Sound Region Has Emerged From The Recession

Credit KUOW Photo/Jake Warga

September marks the fifth anniversary of the economic meltdown on Wall Street. Investment giant Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, AIG took a government bailout in the billions and the Dow had the biggest single day loss in history.

As the national economy convulsed in the great downturn of 2008, the Puget Sound region remained a relative bright spot compared with other parts of the country.

We didn’t get hit as hard, and we bounced back more quickly. Our Big Reset series looks at how our region has emerged from the Great Recession, why we are so resilient and what challenges we still face.

Tell us about your experiences since the recession. Email us, visit us on Facebook or Tweet using hashtag #thebigreset.

Photos by Jake Warga.

KUOW Photo/Jake Warga

When Shannon Kelley started a free worker retraining program last summer, he was 43 years old and had been laid off for five years.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Our one hour special, The Big Reset, explores how the Puget Sound region has emerged from the Great Recession.

KUOW Photo/Jake Warga

Technology companies have been among the bright spots for job growth in the region. They are hiring a lot of one particular kind of employee—software engineers. Those are the people who design, develop and test systems and software.

Flickr Photo/clappstar (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Construction is now the fastest-growing industry in Washington state. Construction cranes fill the skyline. Public works projects like light rail lines and the tunnel project snarl our streets. But despite appearances, construction has not yet fully recovered from the 2008 recession.

KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

For decades, government agencies and business groups have equated science degrees with job security. Employment projections from Washington state show growth in life science jobs, and policy groups lament a shortage of American scientists. But people who counted on a secure career in the lab are having the rug yanked out from under them. In the wake of the recession and the federal budget sequester, they’re having to develop a Plan B.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

In 2009 President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. It provided $500 million for research and green-jobs training. Here in Washington, $16 million in federal funds went to green jobs training.

Flickr Photo/Scott Butner

From Anacortes, Wash., you get the classic, gorgeous views of the San Juan Islands.  But tourists mostly breeze by this city, thinking of it as just the gateway to greater places. Anacortes does have its own thing going, though. It’s an unusual mix of a real working city with super lovely landscape.

KUOW Photo/Jake Warga

This week, KUOW has been taking a deeper look at the jobs recovery in Washington state in our series, The Big Reset. In this segment, we're talking numbers: unemployment, wages, industry trends. And the good news is, Washington is doing all right.

The unemployment rate here has mirrored the national average at around 7 percent. Ross Reynolds talks with regional labor economist, Anneliese Vance-Sherman about Washington's recovery and industry trends.

KUOW Photo/Jamala Henderson

One reason the Puget Sound region stayed stronger than some surrounding areas during the economic downturn is because of its tech industry. A particular bright spot is the computer gaming and interactive media industry.

KUOW Photo/Jake Warga

Welding torches have sizzled at the Vigor Industrial shipyard on Seattle’s Harbor Island for a century. But the men and women behind the welding masks in this particular warehouse have only been at it for two weeks. The demand for skilled welders is so high that the shipyard and the state are now paying to teach the skill to displaced workers.

KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

The economic future of this region is still tied to the future of  Boeing, the region's bellwether employer.  The aerospace industry pays 7.5 percent of the wages in Washington state, and Boeing remains the region’s largest private employer, with 85,000 local jobs.

karenducey.com/Karen Ducey

Nursing schools around the country have seen a jump in enrollment in the last few years. Many students were hoping to get in on what was supposed to be a recession-proof field: the growing health care sector. Instead, new graduates faced a tough market.

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

The economic downturn attributed to the Great Recession tested the resilience of many workers and careers.

King County’s unemployment rate is more than 2 percent lower than the national rate. In fact, the Seattle area is seen as a bright spot in the recovery. But the farther you get from the big city, the more likely a  different picture emerges. In some rural areas, incomes and job security are lower, and this has made for a tougher recovery.