Unemployment down, retail sales up in latest countywide economic indicators report

Unemployment is down. Taxable retail sales are up. The housing market is strong but seeing some changes. Those are among the highlights of the August 2018 Economic Update provided by the Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

The alliance reports that the unemployment rate in Snohomish County was 3.8 percent in July 2018, marking a decrease of 0.2 percent compared to June, “a trend not seen between June and July since 2011,” the report says.

Since July 2017, employment rose in nearly all industries except “Information,” which includes publishers, media and data processing and has seen decline over recent months. The “Construction, Mining & Lodging” industry experienced the greatest rise (7.7 percent) in employment, increasing from 23,300 workers in July 2017 to 25,100 in July 2018. Employment in “Financial Activities” has also spiked since last year, with a 5.5 percent increase of 700 workers since July 2017.

The statewide unemployment rate, meanwhile increased from 4.2 percent in June 2018 to 4.6 percent in July, “swayed by less rapidly growing counties in the state,” the alliance says.

The housing market in Snohomish County remains strong, but some factors have changed, the report states. In July 2018, the median home sale price in Snohomish County was $465,000; this represented a decrease from June, when it was $485,000. This price is still above the median home price one year prior — in July 2017 — of $430,000. The number of homes for sale in the county decreased from 1,876 new listings in July 2017 to 1,781 in July 2018. The number of new listings in July is also a decrease from  June 2018, the report says.

Months of inventory — the ratio of total active listings out of total sold units for the current month — was 1.45 in July; this compares against a “balanced market” of four to six months. “This shows that, while the housing market remains tight, it has continued to loosen since the months of inventory ratio was at a low of 0.67 in March 2018,” the alliance said. The number of closed home sales has also dropped since last year, dipping 9.7 percent, from 1,556 in July 2017 to 1,405 in July 2018.

The alliance also tracks vacancy rates for commercial real estate, countywide, noting a 0.73 percent drop in office space vacancies and a 0.38 decline in industrial space but a 5.49 percent increase in available retail space.

Newly released state taxable retail sales data for the first quarter of 2018 point to a countywide year-over-year increase of 7.5 percent, from $3.3 billion in the first quarter of 2017 to $3.5 billion in the first quarter 2018 (in inflation-adjusted 2018 dollars).

Taxable retail sales are transactions subject to the retail sales tax, including sales by retailers, the construction industry, manufacturing and other sectors. Retail trade includes sales of items such as clothing, furniture and automobiles, but excludes other industries, such as services and construction.

Mukilteo was the only city which experienced negative growth (-0.5 percent), the alliance says, while some cities experienced large increases, such as in Woodway, where taxable retail sales grew 68.6 percent, from more than $3.6 million to more than $6.1 million. Other standouts in taxable retail sale growth include Granite Falls (36.5 percent), Mountlake Terrace (25.8 percent) and Bothell (24.6 percent). Edmonds’ retail sales tax growth was up 10.5 percent, while Lynnwood’s rose 5.7 percent.

You can see the complete August 2018 Economic Indicators report here.

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