Industry data: Life sciences employment rises 23.5% in Washington state from 2015 to 2019

Life science employment in Washington (orange) rose rapidly from 2015 to 2019. (Life Science Washington Image)

Life sciences economic activity is strong and growing in Washington state, according to a report released Thursday from the industry group Life Science Washington.

The organization’s economic impact report shows a 23.5% increase in jobs in the field from 2015 to 2019. More than 39,000 people are employed in life science jobs in the state, at an average annual wage of $106,122.

“I think we’re in a wonderful place, a much stronger and more cohesive community,” said Leslie Alexandre in a recent podcast with GeekWire.

Related: Biotech boom: How life sciences emerged from ‘the doldrums’ in Seattle and Washington state

The region was once known for forging biotechs whose operations would shut down after acquisition by larger companies, said Alexandre, who plans to retire after five years as CEO of Life Science Washington.

But more recently, larger biotech companies such as Seagen have stayed and built manufacturing capacity in the region. And acquisitions have spawned fresh companies as talent moves to new ventures, noted Alexandre. Umoja Biopharma, Sana Biotechnology and Shape Therapeutics were founded or are led by veterans of Juno Therapeutics, which was acquired by Celgene in a $9 billion deal in 2018.

The digital health and health IT sector is also growing and, according to the report, accounts for almost a quarter of the more than 1,100 life science organizations in the state.

Alexandre has one warning: As the life science industry grows, regional leaders should focus on training and attracting workers. “I think that we need to make sure that we’re keeping our eye on the ball, that we’re making the investments we need to in workforce,” Alexandre told GeekWire.

Here are more highlights from the report, which pulled data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources.

  • The life sciences is a top STEM industry for women. Women make up 44% of life science jobs, compared to 24% of jobs in aerospace and 30% in computer system design.
  • The average salary of $106,122 for a life science job exceeds the average annual wage for private sector jobs in the state, which is $70,144.
  • Washington’s 23.5% increase in life sciences jobs from 2015 to 2019 was higher than the increase in private sector jobs overall in the state during that time frame, and higher than the increase in life science jobs nationally.
  • The life science industry not only directly employs more than 39,000 people, it supports more than 100,000 jobs.
  • The industry contributes $1.2 billion to state and local tax revenue, $9 billion in wages and benefits, and has a $30.1 billion total economic impact.
  • Much of the growth in the life sciences from 2015 to 2019 was through companies adding commercial and manufacturing jobs.
  • Seattle was named the top emerging biotech market in 2019 by the commercial real estate firm CBRE, and in 2020 was a top-ten life sciences cluster — though it’s still far behind the Boston and San Francisco powerhouses.

    Related: Absci’s IPO reflects booming biotech market and growing PNW life sciences industry

  • The state’s more than 1,100 life science organizations are located in more than 136 cities in the state, with several cities at the top. 408 are in Seattle, 69 in Bellevue, 59 in Bothell, 53 in Redmond, 46 in Spokane, 45 in Vancouver and 33 in Kirkland.
  • 437 life science organizations are involved in biotechnology, nonprofit research or are drug and pharmaceutical companies. Digital health and health IT account for 196 organizations, medical device and equipment for 278, and agricultural feedstock and industrial bioscience for 103.
Health/life sciences Leslie alexandre Life science washington