Washington state’s maritime workforce

The maritime community is concerned about its future workforce. What does maritime employment look like now?

Washington state’s maritime workforce
A tugboat tows a barge full of logs on Puget Sound. (Future Tides/Cara Kuhlman)

Establishing a new maritime high school. Long term staffing shortages on Washington state ferries. Census data showing an aging maritime workforce.

When researching and writing for Future Tides, the trajectory of the maritime workforce is a recurring theme. To better understand the industry’s baseline, I dug into some data.

The data above comes from Maritime Blue’s Capital Assessment Report, published in 2019. The 2016 data used in the report shows core and non-core maritime industries total employment at 97,916.

The report also found small businesses with less than 50 employees make up an overwhelming majority of Washington state’s maritime industry.

Washington state’s Employment Security Department historical estimate for all non-farm jobs in 2016 is approx. 3.2 million, making the maritime industry account for 3% of jobs.

Another number: The Washington State Dept. of Commerce estimates the maritime industry employs 69,500 people.

Using the figure of 3.2 million jobs, this would mean the maritime industry accounts for 2% of the workforce, larger than the current forestry industry (1.3%) but smaller when compared to aerospace (4%), agriculture and tourism (5% each).

However, future innovation in the maritime industry could result in more occupational overlap between the technology industry (10%) and clean energy (2.8%).

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