Inslee, lawmakers focus on workforce amid tech layoffs and shortage in other industries

Amazon is laying off 18,000 workers, more than the 10,000 widely projected a few weeks ago.

In an interview with KIRO 7, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) said he has not heard from the company how many of those affected workers are in the state.

“Obviously, we want to help those people to the extent that they’re having a transition in their lives,” Inslee said. “The good news is we still have a robust economy in the state of Washington and we hope we’re going to keep them here and find them another opportunity.”

Amazon’s layoffs are the largest in its history, and the latest in the tech industry.

KIRO 7 asked Inslee if he saw a recession coming and if the state should be cautious with the next two-year budget.

“I think the order of the day is we can’t predict the future in the economy, it has remained more robust than people would have predicted so I don’t think any of us should say there is a recession coming,” Inslee said.

The governor said his budget proposal for the next two years includes $2 billion in reserves in case state revenues take a hit.

“We have a very stable budget that I proposed that has a significant reserve that will be available to us if there is a downturn in the economy,” Inslee said.

While the tech industry is shedding jobs, many other employers are desperate for workers.

State legislators from both parties are newly focused on trying to help.

“We are struggling with workforce shortages both in terms of quantity and quality in every facet of life,” said Rep. J.T. Wilcox (R-House Minority Leader).

“It’s called baby boomers retiring,” said Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Speaker of the House).

Legislators told reporters Thursday they want to make it easier for behavioral health specialists licensed in other states to take jobs here, and they propose new police training facilities closer to where incoming officers will live and work.

They also want new training and apprenticeship programs.

“I think you have strong bipartisan support for apprenticeships,” said Sen. John Braun (R-Senate Minority Leader).

Senator Andy Billig (D-Majority Leader) pointed to a program at Washington State Ferries where an entry-level job was created simply to build a pipeline for new workers.

“We have to rethink how we’re doing this. We have a new problem, we need new solutions,” Billig said.