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Puget Sound Population and Growth Rate Continue to Increase

Seattle, LinkedIn, Bay Area
Migration to Seattle | Viz: LinkedIn

By Brittan Jenkins

With 236 new people moving to the Puget Sound region every day, every county in the region is growing, on its way to hit four million people. In the most recent report from the Puget Sound Regional Council, researchers found that as of April 2016, nearly four million people now call the Puget Sound home. The region grew by 86,320 people from 2015 to 2016, the biggest population gain in the century and the highest growth rate in the past 20 years, according to the report.

King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish Counties all experienced population growth from 2015-16, according to the report. Kitsap grew by 4,390 people or 1.7 percent, Pierce grew by 14,370 or 1.7 percent, and Snohomish grew by 15,260 or 2 percent.

According to the report, King County added an extra 16,750 people over 2014-15, increasing its growth by nearly half of what was seen in the previous year. Kitsap County, on the other hand, doubled its growth in 2015-16 over the previous year, going from a 2,300 person increase to 4,390.

In total, during 2014-15, the region grew by 63,270 people, a 1.6 percent increase from the previous year, and in 2015-16 the region grew by 86,320, a 2.2 percent increase.

The report stated that the region’s pace of growth in 2015-16 isn’t unprecedented. In fact, there have been five different times when the region added over 80,000 people. Even more, the report found that in the region’s past 56 years, there have only been four years that the population has not increased. “Population growth has accelerated since 2010, and the rate of change between 2015-16 surpassed the last peak in 2005-06 by nearly 30 percent,” states the report.

While the PSRC report doesn’t provide details about where these new residents are coming from, the business social networking company LinkedIn used its own set of data to try to explain from where the newcomers are arriving in a report it published earlier this month.

Workers moving to the region and tech giants such as AirBnB and Uber expanding operations to Seattle from the San Francisco Bay Area have been reported regularly aver the last few years. LinkedIn’s workforce reports compared hiring and employment trends in 20 major United States cities by using internal data from LinkedIn members. From the study, researchers found that for every 10,000 people with an account based in Seattle, almost nine people came from the San Francisco Bay Area in the last year, making the Bay Area the largest source of new population growth in the Puget Sound region.

The way LinkedIn measured the migration is by recording user changes in the location on her LinkedIn profile. Outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, which accounts for the most migration to Seattle, the top four other cities with high migration to Seattle were New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston.

Matt Christian with Cushman & Wakefield Commerce sees the migration being driven by a number of factors, including cost of living. “I think it’s a combination of things,” Christian said. “[One is] job opportunity, but you’re also seeing folks migrate to Portland and elsewhere, where there’s even lower cost of living.” He added that this region’s cost advantage may not be as pronounced in the future. “As that gap shrinks, it’s gonna be more of an issue with Seattle,” he said, and it will force migration elsewhere.

Migration into Seattle is still strong and growing, as noted in the PSRC report. “In general, these rapid population changes have occurred over two to three years before settling back to a steadier rate of change. If that trend continues, we can expect another year or two of heightened population growth,” stated the report.

For the few people moving out of the Seattle area, most moved to Boise, ID, followed by Grand Junction, CO and Fayetteville, NC. But the migration out doesn’t come close to the migration coming in. For every 10,000 LinkedIn members in Seattle, only 0.42 workers moved to Boise last year, meaning more people are coming in than leaving. Only 0.06 people left Seattle for Grand Junction and even fewer, 0.05 people, left for Fayetteville.

With Boise not offering nearly the same opportunities for technology employment as Seattle, Christian said the move is likely unrelated. “That’s a lifestyle issue change,” he said. “They don’t have the tech jobs.” But what we are seeing, Christian said, is people wanting to change direction and careers and go into smaller markets, a total pivot into a new lifestyle.

While the migration tends to be largely explained by the growing technology sector, LinkedIn also looked into the skillsets of people in Seattle, including oversupply and scarcity in skills, which plays a factor into the workforce. Unsurprisingly, the skillsets with the most oversupply in Seattle are nearly all tech related, with the exception of military. The most abundant skills include cloud computing, web programming, software engineering management, software development skills and software testing.

While Seattle has an abundance of tech based workers, the area is lacking in areas such as healthcare management, education and teaching, sales, accounting, human relations, marketing event management and general finance, among others.