After a Decade of Growth, COVID-19 Impacts Downtown Jobs

After adding an estimated 129,000 jobs over the course of a decade, downtown lost an estimated  48,000 jobs in the second quarter of 2020. This compares to 28,000 jobs lost during the Great Recession. While some jobs are coming back, we anticipate downtown will still end the year with about 21,000 fewer jobs compared to the first quarter.

It is unclear how many downtown workers are currently working from home due to COVID-19. Without the daily traffic that the influx of office workers bring, this has a significant impact on downtown foot traffic. In a Commute Seattle survey, 89% of employers said that some portion of their employees are working remotely, with 72% saying that between 81% and 100% of their employees were doing so as of May 2020. In that same survey, 50% of employers anticipated a post-COVID work culture where their employees would work from home at least a few times per week.

Employment Trends

Figures through 2019 are “covered employment” estimates provided by the Puget Sound Regional Council. Covered employment refers to positions covered by the Washington Unemployment Insurance Act. The Act exempts the self-employed, proprietors and corporate officers, military personnel, and railroad workers, so those categories are not included. Covered Employment accounts for approximately 85-90% of all employment. The 2020 figures and beyond are based on regional forecasts from CoStar and Oxford Economics, using the 2019 PSRC figure as the base from which to project figures for downtown Seattle.

If you have questions about our research, contact Elliott Krivenko at