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This job has declined the most in Washington state in the past decade

At this point, it’s quite obvious that the American job market is evolving. It’s evident with cities like Seattle which are swimming in tech employees. Or presidential candidates pushing the issue to the front of their campaigns.

Read an update on this story here.

While some jobs are growing, other fields are shrinking. In Washington, considering the more than 3.2 million employees in the state, the job most on the decline is “manufactured building and mobile home installers.” This is according to an assessment by Commercial Cafe. Perhaps unintentionally, it provides another perspective on the region’s affordable housing crisis the region.

People in the manufactured building and mobile home installing industry declined by 88 percent between 2009 and 2018. Though, the job pool has always been relatively small. There were 260 employees in 2009. By 2018, that number shrank to 30.

Commercial Cafe also calculated the likelihood that automation is driving the downturn. In Washington’s case, there’s an 18 percent chance that automation is responsible for the shrinking mobile home job market.

To put that in perspective, consider Washington’s Northwest neighbor, Alaska. Roustabouts, or workers in oil and gas operations, have declined by 86 percent over the same time period (from 2,110 in 2009 to 290 in 2018). Automation is 68 percent responsible for this decline, according to the same study.

At 18 percent likelihood, automation is not solely the cause of the manufacture home downturn in Washington state. It’s worth noting that as the numbers of mobile home installers declined in recent years, so has the availability of affordable housing in the region.

Mobile homes, or manufactured housing, has been considered a form of unsubsidized affordable housing. Its popularity took off in the 1980s and continued through the 1990s. But that popularity has slowly waned after the millennium.

In Seattle, for example, the number of households in mobile homes went down by 27.1 percent between 2000 and 2016.

  • 2000: 52,790, or 4.4 percent of all households
  • 2016: 47,226, or 3.2 percent of all households

Today, about 5.6 percent of Americans (17.1 million people) live in manufactured homes. According to Apartment List, among the 100 largest metro areas in the county, mobile home residents spend about 40.5 percent less on housing costs than owners of homes built on site. The website further reports that the average income for a non-mobile home owner in 2018 was $79,000, while a mobile home owner earned $42,052.

As of a 2018 assessment by Apartment List:

  • Bellingham: 6,055 mobile homes; 7.2 percent of households
  • Bremerton: 7,373; 7.2 percent
  • Olympia: 10,676; 10.1 percent
  • Seattle: 47,226; 3.2 percent
  • Spokane: 18,264; 7.7 percent
  • Wenatchee: 6,302;
  • Yakima: 10,234; 12.6 percent

Just in case you are wondering, while mobile home installers have been on the decline, the fastest growing occupation in Washington state between 2009 and 2018 was “human resources specialist.” That job experienced 347 percent growth.

This blog was originally published Sept. 25, 2019.

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