Pierce County Economic Index ¦
Bruce D. Mann, Ph.D. Professor of Economics University of Puget Sound Douglas E. Goodman, Ph.D. Professor of Economics University of Puget Sound
Bruce D. Mann, Ph.D., has been a professor of economics at the University of Puget Sound since 1975. Dr. Mann came to the Tacoma area from Indiana University where he received both his master’s and doctorate degrees in economics. He completed his undergraduate work at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. One of Dr. Mann’s particular areas of teaching interest and research deals with the operations of local economies. He has published research related to the impacts of local government subsidies to businesses, financing for housing and rent control issues. Dr. Mann has been active in local community affairs as a consultant for the City of Tacoma, Pierce County government and numerous civic groups and associations. He has been a member of the Puget Sound Regional Council advisory group on long range forecasting and a board member of the Upper Tacoma Renaissance Association.
Douglas E. Goodman, Ph.D., has been a professor of economics at the University of Puget Sound since 1977. He came from the University of Illinois where he received his master’s and doctorate degrees. Dr. Goodman’s teaching responsibilites focus on monetary economics and econometrics. His research interests are in the areas of financial markets and institutions, personal finance, macroeconomics and applied econometrics and forecasting. In addition to these activities, Dr. Goodman has been active in consulting for both public and private groups. In 2007 he was awarded a Burlington Northern Curriculum Development Grant to devise a new course called “Economic Data and Analysis”. This applied course is designed to promote understanding of economic statistics.
Publisher: Tom Pierson Project Manager/Editor: Gary Brackett Graphic Designer: Christina Kitchens Photography: Chip Van Gilder, Philip Palermo, Sonja Hall, Port of Tacoma and Chamber Staff ©2012 Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. All rights reserved.
¦ Pierce County Economic Index
The PCEI is unique to Pierce County and an exceptional business tool rarely duplicated in other communities. It is constructed from more than 25 local, regional and national data sets. The data sets were chosen for their tested relevance, timely availability and consistency of reporting. Authors of the PCEI, Drs. Bruce Mann and Douglas Goodman, professors of economics at the University of Puget Sound (UPS), present the forecast in a general conference session. The model developed for the Pierce County Economic Index is reconfigured and recalibrated each year to take advantage of new information, data and conditions. In addition to the statistical method, the forecast includes judgmental factors. These factors include extensive analysis of the year’s local economic events, a review of the prior forecasts and consideration of national and international activity. The combination of the statistical and the judgmental approaches allows each year’s forecast to capture past performances as well as a forward-looking method to present an understanding of current conditions and likely short-term future outcomes.
The PCEI itself is used to forecast the overall economic condition for the county. The statistical model is also used to forecast activity in the retail and labor sectors of the economy, as well as local income. This procedure has proved to be very reliable and has generated forecasts that have been statistically accurate. The data sets were chosen for their tested relevance, timely availability and consistency of reporting. Authors of the PCEI, Drs. Bruce Mann and Douglas Goodman, professors of economics at the University of Puget Sound (UPS), present the forecast in a general conference session. In addition to the PCEI, Drs. Mann and Goodman also estimate a local Housing Index. This Index measures the amount of sales activity for single-family homes (detached and condominium) in Pierce County. Data on sales and listings are the primary data sources, but the model itself is based on the particular historical structure of the single-family sales activity in the local area. Because of the lag in publication of resource economic data, each PCEI Report forecasts for a period covering the last two quarters of the current year (2011) and the full calendar year ahead (2012).
Table of Contents
Executive Summary 4-5 Pierce County Economic Index 6-9 Retail Sales Activity 10-11 Labor Activity & Unemployment 12-15 Personal Income 16-17 Housing and Real Estate 18-21 Port of Tacoma 22-23 Data Tables 24-25 Special Thanks 26-27
Pierce County Economic Index ¦ 3
Officially the long, painful Great Recession is over. Economic growth continues sluggish and unemployment remains high. The housing crisis remains. State and local governments continue to cut expenditures as revenues fall. The debate over the national deficit and debt keeps fiscal policy inactive. And, the Federal Reserve System continues to battle financial crises. The Pierce County economy recovered its recession losses by the summer of 2011. The recession cost the county a full three years’ worth of economic activity. The expansion of the military in Pierce County cushioned the economic decline. The health care sector’s spending provided a stimulus to the local economy. The aerospace industry remained fairly healthy early in the recession. The Pierce County economy will grow by 4.7 percent in 2011. This will be one of the strongest rebounds on record, based on the lows of 2010. The local economy will continue to improve throughout 2012, but the pace will slow. The slowing growth rate during 2012 is normal for an economic expansion. At the end of 2012, Pierce County will have had eleven consecutive quarters of economic growth. Raising taxes or cutting spending will slow the national recovery, with adverse effects for Pierce County. Any significant reductions in entitlement spending will seriously reduce local incomes and local consumer spending. 4 ¦ Pierce County Economic Index
From the fourth quarter of 2008 through the second quarter of 2010, the number of nonagricultural jobs in the county fell by thirteen thousand. The average annual number of jobs in the local economy in 2011 will be just about the same as in 2010. Pierce County’s employment gains in 2012 will continue to be weak, the weakest recovery rate of local job growth on record. Much of the reason can be attributed to the very strong productivity gains in the years preceding the recession. At the current rate of job growth, it will take four to six years for employment in the county to regain all the job losses from the Great Recession.
Retail Sales Activity
Some of the current strong performance of retail activity comes from consumers “catching up” on recession-induced delayed purchases. Even though retail spending is increasing, future gains will be moderate. Retail sales in the fourth quarter in 2011 will be up by 1.6 percent over 2010, a gain of almost $24 million dollars during the holiday season. This will be the second year in a row with higher holiday spending. However, fourth quarter retail spending will still not be back to its pre-recession level. For 2012, dollar retail spending in Pierce County will be up by $130 million, or 2.4 percent, over 2011. This will bring total spending back to the level it was in 2008.
One of the surprising results of this recession has been the performance of total personal income for Pierce County residents. Throughout the recession period, Pierce County never experienced a fall in the total amount of income flowing to its residents. This was due to the increased number of military personnel stationed in Pierce County. And, Pierce County residents receive a relatively large proportion of their incomes from pensions, veteran benefits, welfare support, interest earnings and other forms of transfer payments. The County’s total personal income will rise by 6.5 percent in 2011, and by five percent in 2012. This will still be below the county’s pre-recession annual income growth rate.
developments are in the early stages of development. For both the commercial and industrial real estate markets the biggest challenge will be regional competition for tenants.
Container volume in 2011 will be marginally above the 2010 level. Container volume will increase almost three percent in 2012. The Port of Tacoma’s domestic Alaska and Hawaii business has served as both a bright point and a stabilizing factor to the Port’s overall container business. Also offsetting the decline in imports has been a strong improvement in exports, both for Tacoma and for the West Coast as a whole. The breakbulk business has roared back in 2011, a significant driver in this year’s growth in volume. Overall, breakbulk will reach approximately 125,000 short tons. For 2012, breakbulk is expected to remain relatively flat. Auto imports are projected to increase 19 percent over 2010.
Real Estate Activity
The single-family housing market continues to struggle. When 2011 ends, the Housing Index will be back to the level it reached in 2000, and it will be down almost 30 percent from its 2006 peak. Even with improving activity the single-family housing market will continue on shaky ground. Conversely, increased demand has provided strength to the multi-family market. The multi-family housing market will continue fairly strong through 2012. The Pierce County regional sub-market for commercial, office and industrial real estate performed better than most in the northwest. For the first time in more than three years, significant retail
National domestic political issues, events in Europe and possible problems for Asian economies create significant uncertainty for next year, making forecasts for local conditions less clear than normal. Pierce County Economic Index ¦ 5
Pierce County Economic Index
Officially the long, painful Great Recession is over in the United States. (The National Bureau of Economic Research, the official business cycle dating arbiter, marked the start of the recession in the fourth quarter of 2007 and the end as the second quarter of 2009.) The effects are still being felt – both at the local and the national levels. Economic growth continues sluggish and unemployment remains high. Job creation is hampered by business pessimism, international trade weakness, productivity gains and concern over employee costs. The housing crisis remains, keeping households nervous and worried. State and local governments continue to cut expenditures as revenues fall. The debate over the national deficit and debt keeps fiscal policy inactive. And, the Federal Reserve System continues to battle financial crises. Even with interest rates low and record high liquidity, financial institutions appear to be in no mood to lend. The Pierce County economy, as noted last year, entered its recession later than did the United States. The local recession started in the fourth quarter of 2008, about a year after the U.S. The local recovery began in the third quarter of 2010, a little over a year after the start of the national upturn. The effects of Pierce County’s Great Recession will continue to impact the local area economy throughout this forecast period. Although the timing of the local and national recessions differed, the magnitudes of the losses were about the same. Based on the Pierce County Economic Index (PCEI), a measure of overall real (inflation adjusted) economic well-being in Pierce County, the local economy fell by 5.3 percent from its peak Index of 203.3 (2008:Q3) to its recession trough Index of 192.5 (2010:Q1). The U.S. economy’s Real Gross Domestic Product declined by 5.1 percent from its pre-recession peak to the trough. The Pierce County economy recovered its recession losses by the summer of 2011, when the PCEI moved up to 204.8. The recession cost the county a full three years’ worth of economic activity. This has been the longest time to “full recovery” on record. The national economy did not recover to its pre-recession level until the second quarter of 2011. It took the U.S. three and a half years for a full recovery. Pierce County’s slide into the recession, based on revised data, was milder than originally estimated. In 2009 the local economy contracted by 1.5 percent, less than half of the four percent decline reported in 2010. The expansion of the military in Pierce County cushioned the economic decline. In addition, since the health care sector is a significant part of the Pierce County economy, increased health care spending provided a stimulus to the local economy. Finally, the aerospace industry remained fairly healthy early in the recession, providing support for local manufacturing. When the Pierce County economy began to improve in 2010, the strength of the recovery was weak. On a yearover-year basis, local economic activity in both the first and second quarters of the year was about 4.25 percent below year earlier levels. The economy continued its slow recovery during the
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third quarter of 2010 with the PCEI still two percent below the third quarter 2009 level. In the fourth quarter of 2010 improving economic activity moved the PCEI 0.75 percent higher than the fourth quarter of 2009 level. This slow move up was less than last year’s estimate of almost three percent growth. The recovery gained momentum during the first three quarters of 2011. In the first quarter, economic activity moved ahead by 3.75 percent. The upward movement improved in the second and third quarters, with the PCEI up by an annual average rate of 5.25 percent, ahead of last year’s forecast of 3.25 percent. The accelerated growth of the local economy resulted from the high troop levels at local installations, Boeing’s stepped-up production and continued growth in the health care industry.
more moderate impacts of the military. In addition, consumers will continue to replenish their savings, keeping their spending in check. State and city budgets will be trimmed further, as revenues decline. On the positive side, manufacturing activity will continue to be buoyed by the aerospace industry, the health care sector will remain strong, and activity from international trade will increase. Slower, but still positive growth will continue as 2012 unfolds. Local economic activity will improve at an annual rate of just under two percent for the balance of the year. In the second quarter the PCEI will move up by two percent over the second quarter of 2011. During the third quarter of the year the annualized growth rate for the local economy will be 1.8 percent. And, the economy will end the year by moving up at an annual rate 1.6 percent during the fourth quarter. The slowing growth rate during 2012 is normal for an economic expansion. The biggest gains come earliest in a recovery – 2011 for Pierce County. Once firms adjust their labor forces at the beginning of the recovery, businesses have less reason to continue adding employees as the recovery continues. Consumers, after catching up with delayed purchases, slow down their expenditures. In addition, state and local governments will continue reducing budget appropriations. In 2012 the Pierce County economy will gain 2.25 percent over its 2011 level of activity. This will be the second consecutive year of annual growth for the local economy. By the end of 2012, Pierce County will be well into its recovery. The economy will have regained all the losses from the recession by the end of the summer of 2011. At the end of 2012, Pierce County will have had eleven consecutive quarters of economic growth. When 2012
Solid growth will continue during the fourth quarter of 2011, although the pace will moderate a bit. As the year ends the PCEI will register a gain of 4.35 percent over the fourth quarter of 2010. This will be two percentage points better than forecast last year.
“The slowing growth rate during 2012 is normal for an economic expansion. The biggest gains come earliest in a recovery - 2011 for Pierce County.”
After annual declines of 1.5 percent in 2009 and 2.5 percent in 2010, the Pierce County economy will grow by 4.7 percent in 2011. This will be one of the strongest rebounds on record. Of course, this percentage increase is based on a relatively low level of the PCEI in 2010. The local economy will continue to improve throughout 2012, but the pace will slow. In the first quarter of the year the Pierce County economy will move ahead at an annualized rate of 3.67 percent. This will be somewhat below the gains recorded in late 2011. This slowing growth will result, in part, from the
Pierce County Economic Index ¦
Pierce County Economic Index
comes to a close, the PCEI will register a new high at Index 208 (1985 = 100). There is more uncertainty and risk for this forecast than usual. National political issues, events in Europe and possible problems for Asian economies create significant uncertainty for next year, making forecasts for local conditions less clear than normal. The most serious concern is the direction national fiscal policy will take. To the extent that the debate over spending and taxes is impacted by deficit and debt worries, fiscal policy will not provide the needed stimulus for the U.S. economy. Raising taxes or cutting spending will slow the national recovery, with adverse effects for Pierce County. Any significant reductions in entitlement spending will seriously reduce local incomes and consumer spending. (Pierce County is very dependent on these income sources.) Should national defense expenditures be reduced this would slow an important local engine for growth. This PCEI’s forecast assumes a moderately restrictive fiscal policy. The financial crises in the Euro-zone area also present concerns for the Pierce County economy. Euro-zone countries do not account for a large share of our import/ export activity, so direct trade activity impacts will be minor. But, to the extent economic activity contracts in major European economies, there will be adverse trade multiplier effects locally. When those economies trade less, eventually Asian economies will be affected. Like a domino, less trade from Asian economies will reduce activity for the Port of Tacoma. In addition, a Euro-zone financial market and sovereign debt collapse will push interest rates higher, raise the value of the dollar, and, potentially initiate trade wars. This PCEI’s forecast assumes that the Euro-zone problems will be moderate with no serious financial collapse. Most Asian economies have avoided serious problems. However, there are some emerging signals that economic activity in China and Japan may slow. Significantly slower growth or even a downturn for these two economies would adversely impact trade in Pierce County. This PCEI’s forecast assumes continued moderate growth for China and Japan and no major Asian economic downturn. National and local housing markets continue weak. The overhang of foreclosed and defaulted properties continues to create uncertainty and fear for both households and financial institutions. Even with historically low lending rates financial institutions remain reluctant to extend credit – a case of once burned, twice shy, perhaps. This PCEI’s forecast assumes housing market conditions will remain weak, but that they will not significantly worsen. Finally, how consumers will react during this recovery is an issue. More than in any other recession, households have seen significant erosion in wealth. Much of the loss is from lower housing values, but other forms of wealth were also reduced due to financial market weaknesses. To the extent that consumers will choose to rebuild their portfolios, they will have to increase savings and reduce debt levels. This will dampen spending and slow the recovery. This PCEI’s forecast assumes only moderate wealth rebuilding.
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210 205 200 195 190 185
P CEI Inde x (1985=100)
180 175 170 165 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Pierce County Economic Index ¦
Retail Sales Activity
It is no surprise that a recession, weak job prospects, concern and uncertainty about incomes, and the erosion of wealth all lead to soft retail spending. Annual spending at stores in Pierce County declined by 8.6 percent in 2008 and by another 7.8 percent in 2009. While total retail spending increased in 2010, the gain was minimal. In the first half of 2010, retail spending in Pierce County increased at an annualized rate of 1.5 percent. This marked the end of more than two years of decreased spending. The gain in retail activity improved during the second half of the year, with annualized rates of growth up to five percent in the third quarter and then eight percent as the year ended. It is likely that some of the strong performance of retail activity came from consumers “catching up” on recession-induced delayed purchases. Even with improving activity, the annual increase in countywide retail spending in 2010 was just 0.3 percent over the 2009 level. Given the slow pace of the recovery in Pierce County, retail spending growth in the first half of 2011 was good. Spending moved up at an annualized rate of 5.6 percent in the first quarter, and then slowed to 4.9 percent in the second quarter. Spending growth continued to slow in the third quarter of the year, up by 2.4 percent over the same quarter as in 2010. Even though retail spending is increasing, future gains will be moderate. One of the extraordinary aspects of this great recession has been the wealth losses suffered by consumers. Not only did households experience falling house 10 ¦ Pierce County Economic Index prices, they also saw the value of their financial assets decline. Retirement portfolios, college savings plan balances plus other savings accounts used to finance future spending have lost value. To recover then, households have increased the rate of savings from income. This will mean lower spending growth and soft retail activity. Spending will continue to improve as 2011 comes to a close, with the fourth quarter in 2011 up by 1.6 percent over 2010. This will produce a gain of almost $24 million dollars for Pierce County merchants during the holiday season. This will be the second year in a row with higher holiday spending. However, fourth quarter retail spending will still not be back to its pre-recession level. Holiday season spending in 2011 will be $82 million below the 2007 holiday level (the pre-recession peak). Nonetheless, for the year as a whole retail spending in Pierce County will register a nice gain of 7.5 percent over 2010. The dollar value of retail sales will continue to move up during 2012, with annualized gains of 2.4 percent in the first quarter and then 3.2 percent in the second. Growth will slow during the second half of the year. Retail spending will increase by 2.1 percent in the third quarter. Fourth quarter holiday spending will advance by 1.8 percent over 2011, adding another $26.8 million in holiday sales for local area merchants. For the year dollar retail spending in Pierce County will be up by $130 million, or 2.4 percent, over 2011. This will bring total spending back to the level it was in 2008.
Some of the dollar increase in retail spending will be due to higher prices. In 2011 the rate of price increase will be fairly low. So, when adjusted for the effect of higher prices, real retail spending will increase by four percent in 2011.
However, for 2012 almost all of the growth in the dollar volume of retail activity will be due to inflation. Real, inflation adjusted, retail activity will show only 0.2 percent increase over 2011.
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Labor Activity and Unemployment
Employment and Jobs
The recession in Pierce County was costly in terms of employment and jobs. From the fourth quarter of 2008 through the second quarter of 2010 the number of nonagricultural jobs in the county fell by thirteen thousand, a 4.6 percent loss of employment opportunities. Job losses continued in the second and third quarters of 2010, although at a slower rate – down by annualized rates of 0.9 percent in the third and then by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter. In 2010 the average annual employment level in Pierce County was 1.6 percent below 2009. This was a more severe loss than last year’s forecast decline of just 0.3 percent. A weaker than expected job market in Pierce County continued into 2011. Rather than expanding at a moderate pace as forecast last year, the number of jobs in the local economy remained just about constant in the first half of the year. Employment did start to increase in the third quarter, up by three-tenths of a percent, but this was less than last year’s forecast of a 1.75 percent improvement. This very slow growth for Pierce County employment will continue into the fourth quarter with job growth up by just two-tenths of one percent (not the 1.75 percent anticipated last year). The average annual number of jobs in the local economy in 2011 will be just about the same as in 2010. Pierce County’s employment gains in 2012 will continue to be weak. The annualized rate of employment growth will be less than one percent in each quarter – a gain of 0.4 percent in the first quarter, an increase of 0.5 percent in the second, and then up by 0.7 percent in the third and fourth quarters. For the entire year, the average annual increase in Pierce County jobs will be just about one-half of one percent. This will be the weakest recovery rate of local job growth on record. When 2012 ends, employment in Pierce County will be back at the level it was at the third quarter of 2009 – an employment loss of three years. The recovery from the Great Recession, while not jobless, will be one of very slow job creation. Much of the reason can be attributed to the very strong productivity gains in the years preceding the recession. Relatively fewer additional workers are needed now as output increases. In addition, firms are facing higher labor costs, driven by increasing health care expenses. This makes employers reluctant to add new full time workers until they are convinced the recovery and expansion will last. This will take some time, given the severity of the recession, the problems throughout the world and the uncertainty of national economic policy. Of course, local job growth has been hindered by the closing of Nalley’s, the loss of Russell Investments and the decline of import trade through the Port of Tacoma. It will take the local economy some time to recover from these impacts. Based on Pierce County’s long run average rate of job growth, it will take three more years before the number of jobs returns to its pre-recession peak level (attained in 2007). Or, at the current rate of job growth (well below the long term average), it will take four to six years for employment in the county to regain all the losses from the Great Recession.
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The severity of the recession and the associated job losses, combined with the slow recovery and slow employment growth, dampened the attractiveness of Pierce County for new workers. In addition, as recent Census Bureau reports note, migration in the United States has slowed, in no small part due to the “home lock” from depressed housing values. For Pierce County the effect has been a reduction in the number of people entering the local labor force. As reported last year, the labor force decline started in the second half of 2009. The number of people at work or actively seeking employment fell at an annualized rate of about one percent.
By the summer the size of Pierce County’s labor force will start to grow. The labor force will expand at an annualized rate of 1.2 percent in the third quarter and then by just 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter. Most of the growth will come from local residents entering the labor force as prospects for employment improve. In-migration will remain very slow since the availability of jobs will be limited and many household will continue being “locked-in” to homes that can not sell. From the peak size of the labor force in the first quarter of 2009 to its low in the third quarter of 2011, Pierce County’s labor force declined by 20,200 workers. Much of this loss is due to migration effects – lower inmigration from other areas in the northwest, especially California, and outmigration as workers left Pierce County. In addition, more potential workers stayed in school longer, returned to school or did not enter the labor force due to the discouraging effect of the recession.
“Although the local unemployment rate will increase to 9.7 percent in the first quarter of 2012, the trend for the year will be down”
The decline continued into the first half of 2010, with the civilian labor force dropping by about 0.5 percent. In the second half of 2010, the size of the local labor force remained fairly constant. The annual decline in the size of the local force in 2010 was 0.1 percent. Potential new workers remained in school, stopped actively seeking employment or moved out the region. The loss of workers continued through the first three quarters of 2011, and additional losses will occur during the fourth quarter. The annualized rate of decline worsened during the year –from a 1.3 percent drop in the first quarter to a 2.1 percent fall in the third quarter. In the last quarter of the year the loss of workers will moderate to 1.25 percent. For 2011, the size of Pierce County’s labor force fell by 1.5 percent. The labor force will begin to increase in 2012, up by 0.33 percent over 2011. The first half of the year will see small declines – just under 0.2 percent in each quarter.
As the recession took hold, the unemployment rate increased. The first big jump came early in 2009 – the rate moved from 6.3 percent at the end of 2008 to 9.2 percent in the first quarter of 2009. The unemployment rate has remained above the nine percent level since. In 2009, the rate averaged 9.7 percent for the year and then moved up to 9.9 percent in 2010. Pierce County has not seen unemployment rates this high since the early 1980s. During 2008 and 2009 the labor force grew but the number of jobs in Pierce County fell. So, the local unemployment rate peaked in the first quarter of 2010 at 11.3 percent. During the year, as the size of the labor force declined,
Pierce County Economic Index ¦
Labor Activity and Unemployment
the unemployment rate dropped, ending 2010 at 9.1 percent, in line with last year’s forecast. Pierce County’s unemployment rate remained above nine percent during the first three quarters of 2011. The rate jumped to 10.25 percent in the first quarter before dropping to 9.4 percent in the third quarter. Although the rate was about 0.75 percent above last year’s forecast, the downward move was as anticipated. The local unemployment rate will continue to move lower during the fourth quarter of 2011. The rate at the end of the year will be 9.1 percent. The decline in the rate during 2011 results from both a shrinking labor force and small gains in jobs available. The unemployment rate in Pierce County will average 9.6 percent in 2011, down from the 9.9 percent average of 2010. Although the local unemployment rate will increase to 9.7 percent in the first quarter of 2012, the trend for the year will be down. The rate will move to 8.7 percent in the second quarter, then drop to 8.6 percent in the third, and end the year at 8 percent. In 2012 Pierce County’s unemployment rate will average 8.7 percent, a significant decline from the 2011 annual average. Although the local unemployment rate will improve in 2012, it will still remain well above a “full employment rate” of 5 to 6 percent. The persistence of the high rate is a result of both the magnitude of the recession and the slow pace of job growth. The county’s unemployment rate provides one measure of the overall condition in the labor market and health of the area’s economy. Another broad gauge indicator is the ratio of unemployed workers to job vacancies in Pierce County. Just prior to the beginning of the recession there were about three unemployed workers for each announced job vacancy in the county. As the recession started, the number of unemployed workers for each job opening increased four-fold to twelve. By the summer of 2011, this ratio declined but still remained relatively high at eight unemployed workers to each job vacancy. The number of unemployed workers per job openings will decline in 2012 as the labor force grows slowly and new jobs are created, but it will remain in the six-toeight persons/job range.
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11.0 10.5 10.0 9.5 9.0
8.5 8.0 7.5 7.0 6.5 6.0 5.5 5.0 4.5
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
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Total Personal Income
One of the surprising results of this recession has been the performance of total personal income for Pierce County residents. Normally in a recession personal income declines as jobs are lost and earnings fall. However, this time incomes increased, albeit at a fairly slow pace. Prior to the recession, from 1999 to 2008, total personal income for Pierce County residents grew at an average annual rate of 6.8 percent. Even though 2009 was the first full year of recession for the local economy, personal income increased by one percent. In 2010, as the recession was coming to an end, the growth in local personal income rebounded to 1.4 percent. Throughout the recession period, Pierce County never experienced a fall in the amount of income flowing to its residents. Part of the reason for the income growth during the recession was due to the increased number of military personnel stationed in Pierce County. During the recession more than 15,000 additional troops took up residency in the area. These personnel provided a significant increase of payroll income for Pierce County. In addition to the expansion of the military, Pierce County residents receive a relatively large proportion of their incomes from non-labor market activity. These income sources include pensions, veteran benefits, welfare support, interest earnings and other forms of transfer payments. Many of these payments do not fluctuate with overall economic conditions – they remain fairly stable over the business cycle – providing stability and some growth when the local economy is in a recession. As the local economy continues to recover from the recession, personal income growth will accelerate. In 2011 Pierce County’s total personal income will rise by 6.5 16 ¦ Pierce County Economic Index percent, a strong improvement. Income growth will slow in 2012 and move up by 5 percent. These annual growth rates, while an improvement over the recession years, will still be below the county’s pre-recession annual income growth rate. If personal income had grown at the pre-recession rate, total personal income in Pierce County would be $5 billion higher by the end of 2012. Some of the benefit from the personal income growth will be lost due to higher prices. In constant dollar (inflation adjusted) terms, total personal income rose by 1.3 percent in 2009. The smaller gains in 2010 were more than offset by inflation as real total personal income declined by 0.2 percent. Half of the personal dollar income gains for 2011 will be offset by higher prices, as constant dollar income increases by 3.2 percent. In 2012 real total personal income will move up by 2.9 percent. By the end of 2012 Pierce County residents will have $578 million less in real personal income (total purchasing power) due to the impact of the recession. Even though total personal income rose in 2009, the gain was less than the increase in Pierce County’s population. As a result, per capita income declined by 0.25 percent. The same thing happened in 2010; total income growth did not keep pace with population. Per capita income in Pierce County fell by 0.8 percent from 2009 to 2010. Because total income growth was stronger than anticipated last year, the losses in per capita income were smaller than forecast last year. The decline from 2008 to 2010 was just over one percent, rather than the 3.2 percent forecast last year. The improving recovery with strong income growth in 2011 will push per capita incomes in Pierce County up. During the year per capita income will increase
by 5.2 percent, well ahead of last year’s forecast of 1.3 percent. Per capita income growth will continue in 2012, although at a slower rate. During 2012 the per capita income level for Pierce County residents will move up by 3.7 percent. In 2010, at the bottom of the recession, the average county resident’s income was $40,500. In 2012 the average Pierce County resident’s income will be $44,200. This amounts to a nine percent increase in per capita income during the initial phase of the recovery. However, had there been no recession per capita income would be $50,300 in 2012. By 2012 the recession reduced
per capita income by $6,100, or 13.8 percent. Higher prices eroded the purchasing power of per capita income, although the impacts have been fairly moderate. Real per capita income in 2009 was basically unchanged from its 2008 level. Real per capita income fell by 2.4 percent in 2010. In 2011 real per capita income will move up by two percent, and then it will increase by another 1.5 percent in 2012. When 2012 ends, real per capita income in Pierce County will be back up to the level it reached in 2008.
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Pierce County Economic Index ¦
Housing and Real Estate
The single-family housing market continues to struggle, as noted in last year’s forecast. The worst of the decline in activity came early in the recession and continued into 2009. As measured by the PCEI’s Housing Index (a measure of activity, not prices or values, for sales of single-family housing), sales activity fell by almost 20 percent in 2008 and by another five percent in 2009. These declines were coincident with the collapse of housing prices and lending activity. Foreclosures, vacant houses and under-water mortgages continue to depress the overall condition of the single-family housing market. A brief rebound started late in 2009 and continued through most of 2010. However, the rebound collapsed by the end of the year. In the fourth quarter of 2010, on a year-over-year basis, sales activity was declining again, and the Housing Index dropped by five percent in the fourth quarter. However, for the year, single-family sales activity did register a gain in 2010, as the Housing Index moved up by almost five percent. Single-family housing sales activity continued to decline into 2011. Strict lending requirements meant few qualified buyers. Many sellers could not enter the market without offering “short sales.” The overhang of foreclosed units depressed prices, discouraging some potential sellers. On an annualized basis the Housing Index fell by 13 percent in the first quarter and then by 10 percent in the second quarter of the year, both slightly steeper declines than forecast last year. Improvement, measured by smaller Housing Index losses, began in the third quarter when the Housing Index fell by just four percent. With bargains available for buyers, lenders flush with funds, support from some federal programs and a recovering economy, the single family housing market 18 ¦ Pierce County Economic Index will start to move up during the fourth quarter of 2011. The Housing Index will increase by one percent. However for the year as a whole, the Housing Index will be down by just over 6.5 percent in 2011, more than wiping out all of the gains from 2010. When 2011 ends, the Housing Index will be back to the level it reached in 2000, and it will be down almost 30 percent from its 2006 peak. The turn-around that started in late 2011 will continue through 2012. The gains in sales activity however, will be modest. In the first quarter of the year, the Housing Index will gain 5.3 percent. Sales activity will continue increasing with a gain of 4.8 percent in the second quarter. During the second half of the year the improvements in sales activity will slow. In the third quarter of 2012 single-family sales activity will move up by 2.7 percent. By the fourth quarter of the year the acceleration in activity will almost come to a halt when the Housing Index will register a gain of only one percent. For the year, the single-family sales activity will be up by 3.4 percent over 2011. Even with improving activity the single-family housing market will continue on shaky ground. The most important issue will be how the market absorbs the large number of foreclosed properties. This “shadow inventory,” if it floods the market, could depress prices, slow sales activity, and possibly eliminate the anticipated gains. The other important issue for the single-family market is how willing lenders will be to provide mortgage financing. If lenders continue their reluctance or if they impose even tougher underwriting standards sales activity could stall.
Thanks to Tom Cain, Apartment Insights
A weak single-family housing market is generally good news for the multi-family (apartment) housing sector. And, this has been the case during this recession and early recovery period. With some potential buyers unable to find financing and others unwilling to take the risk of owning, more households are moving to apartments. This increased demand has provided strength to the multi-family market. By the end of 2010 the vacancy rate for apartments in Pierce County fell from the 2009 level of nine percent to 6.2 percent. This was up from the summer 2010 low of 5.7 percent, primarily due to market softness in the peninsula area. Strong sub-markets in the county were north and central Tacoma, with vacancies rates near 4.5 percent. Absorption was strong in the Lakewood market area, driving its vacancy rate to just over seven percent.
although not by as much as it did in the 2009-2011 period. Construction around Joint Base Lewis-McChord and in the Tacoma Mall areas will add some new units during the year. Condominium conversions will also augment the supply of rental housing in the county. Rents should continue at least at the current level, if not up by a small percent. Vacancy rates should remain in the five to seven percent range in most of the county’s sub-markets. If lenders lower the underwriting barriers for developers during the year, the construction of new units could soften rents and increase vacancies by a modest amount. The most distressed part of the Pierce County multi-family market will continue to be condominiums. Buyers will remain reluctant to take the risk of ownership unless prices fall even further. Larger developments with high vacancies will continue to struggle with the best option being conversion to apartments.
“The high vacancy rates in the regional sub-markets will produce attractive offers from outside of Pierce County, especially from empty space in Tukwila and new developments in north Thurston County.”
Commercial, Industrial and Office Real Estate
The commercial and office real estate sector throughout the Puget Sound region suffered its worst year in 2009. These market sectors then stabilized during 2010 and began to show some improvements early in 2011. The Pierce County regional sub-market performed better than most in the northwest. The relative strength for the local area came from the health care sector and the area’s lack of reliance on high tech companies. In the second quarter of 2011, regional vacancy
Much of the improvement was due to the arrival of troops in the county. The strong market for apartments encouraged some new development activity during the third quarter of 2011. However, given the reluctance and caution of lenders, the amount of new construction will be fairly modest. The other factor increasing the apartment supply was the conversion of condominiums to rental units. The multi-family housing market will continue fairly strong through 2012. Demand will continue to increase,
Pierce County Economic Index ¦
Housing and Real Estate
rates remained high at 15 - 30 percent depending on the sub-area. Pierce County rates were generally on the lower end. Frederickson is nearly full and the Benaroya Industrial Park in Puyallup is beginning to lease up. Most of the commercial developments in the Sumner and east county areas were built for owners, so speculatively built vacancies are a small problem in Pierce County. By the third quarter of 2011, commercial and office vacancy rates started to decline. The early stages of the area’s economic recovery produced some optimism and new demand for space. Little new construction since 2009 kept supply growth low. During the quarter absorption was positive and rents stopped declining. The health care sector will continue to increase activity in the commercial and office markets in Pierce County during 2012. Projects beginning and coming on line during the year include the Hilltop Regional Health Center, St. Joseph’s Hospital complex expansion, the new Bonney Lake health care facility and the build out of the Good Samaritan facility in Puyallup. These developments will increase the demand for allied health care and tenant-related space. For the first time in more than three years, significant retail developments are in the early stages of development, providing more stimuli to the commercial and office real estate sectors in Pierce County. On the peninsula, the Uptown retail complex will expand and work will begin on the Harbor Hills project. Most of the area’s major shopping malls plan renovations or expansions during 2012. In Tacoma, a renovated Elks building will provide new retail and entertainment facilities near the city center. Longer term, but with the potential to begin construction in 2012, the Orton Junction development will generate considerable new 20 ¦ Pierce County Economic Index space to the commercial and retail sector. Given the weaknesses throughout the region, competition for retail and office occupants will be strong. The high vacancy rates in the regional submarkets will produce attractive offers from outside of Pierce County, especially from empty space in Tukwila and new developments in north Thurston County. The regional industrial real estate sector is also recovering from three years of depressed conditions. Vacancy rates started to decline in early 2011. During the first half of the year the market experienced positive space absorption, reversing two years of negative absorption. During the third quarter of 2011 the industrial market saw significant activity growth. The strong positive absorption in that quarter was four times greater than the total amount of space absorbed in all of 2010. In Pierce County, the strengthening industrial real estate sector means relatively low vacancy rates for 2012. However, the improving market will not be strong enough to generate significant rent increases, although some sub-market areas will experience moderately higher rents. Space in Frederickson is almost completely leased up. Regional distribution and warehouse facilities in east Pierce County will continue to attract tenants. For both the commercial and industrial real estate markets the biggest challenge will be regional competition for tenants. Developments in south King County, especially the Tukwila and Auburn areas, could aggressively market in Pierce County. Competition will also come from north Thurston County as
developments in Hawks Prairie and Tenino come on line. Further south, competition for industrial space tenants could come from the TransAlta development in Chehalis. Even with increasing competition, 2012 should be a good year for the commercial, office, and industrial real estate sectors.
Demand will increase as the economic recovery continues. Curtailed construction over the past few years will keep the supply of space from increasing very much. As empty spaces find new tenants, rents should start to increase and construction activity should come back.
In d ex ( 1990= 100)
240 220 200 180 160 140 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Pierce County Economic Index ¦
Port of Tacoma
Thanks to Josh Adams, Business & Economic Analyst, Commercial Group, Port of Tacoma Shipping Industry
Since 2007 the volume of container traffic, measured by thousands of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), moving through the Port of Tacoma declined. During this period the Port’s container volume fell by 30 percent, from a high of 2,067,000 TEUs in 2006 to a low of 1,455,000 in 2010. Ocean carriers are now in much the same precarious situation they found themselves in just two years ago. After making an impressive turn-around in 2010, when container lines experienced a significant return of cargo volume and profitability, many carriers are again staring at a loss in 2011. Rather than focused on profitability, carriers have once again found themselves caught up in a race to the bottom for market share. Container volume in 2011 will be marginally above the 2010 level, providing some aid for the Pierce County recovery. A container volume increase of an almost three percent increase in 2012 will add stimulus to the local economy – due both to the direct employment impacts at the Port of Tacoma as well as through the indirect gains in the warehouse and transportation sectors. Although demand for vessel slots has been relatively slack over most of 2011, new capacity has continued to come online. Orders that have been placed over the last few years continue to be filled and enter service in all trade lanes and at a faster rate than older vessels can be laid up or scrapped. The end result is that the shipping industry is again facing a problem of overcapacity. While the projected loss for 2011 is nowhere near as great as in 2009, it is estimated that the carrier industry as a whole will lose as much as $3 billion this year.
3500 3250 3000 2750 2500 2250 2000 1750 1500
Similar to most of the West Coast, containerized transPacific imports were down significantly in 2011. While this was due in part to a weak peak season, the trend has persisted for much of the year as retailers have remained cautious with their inventories. Consumer sentiment, constrained for much of 2011, has affected spending on such items as furniture, clothes, shoes and toys; all major commodities groups within the trans-Pacific trade lane. Offsetting the decline in imports has been a strong improvement in exports, both for Tacoma and for the West Coast as a whole. This improvement has been led by strong growth in agriculture, wood products and wastepaper. After dropping six percent in 2010, containers
1250 1000 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
Estimate Conservative Forecast Optimistic
¦ Pierce County Economic Index
remained relatively flat in 2011. Looking forward to 2012, the Port of Tacoma will break-out of this cycle with three percent growth in the container line of business. The Port of Tacoma is home to the two premium carriers serving the Alaska market – Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) and Horizon Lines. Horizon also provides a weekly service to Hawaii and U.S. territories located in the Pacific. Throughout the recession and after, the Port of Tacoma’s domestic business has served as both a bright point and a stabilizing factor to the Port’s overall container business. Accounting for about 32 percent of the Port’s total container volume in 2011, the domestic business consists largely of staple items, or “necessities”, such as food, clothing, and materials for home building and repairs. After a slight decline of 1.8 percent in 2011, the Port’s domestic business is projected to remain flat in 2012. After experiencing a flat volume in 2010, the Port’s breakbulk business has roared back in 2011. Breakbulk, which consists of items too large or awkward for efficient shipment in containers, is made up in large part by agricultural and construction equipment. The surge in exports of this type of equipment has been a significant driver behind this year’s growth in volume. Additionally, one of the Port’s major breakbulk carriers added a large new account which also contributed significantly to this year’s growth. Overall, breakbulk will reach approximately 125,000 short tons, an increase of 36 percent over 2010. Looking ahead to 2012, the breakbulk business will have relatively flat growth as no new major accounts are expected in the near-term. Auto imports for the year are projected at 144,000 units, up 19 percent from 2010, driven by a return of US consumers to auto showrooms and by a major manufacturer and customer of the Port rolling out a new model lineup.
The Port of Tacoma maintains its strong commitment to the environment, and environmental measures remain a high priority. Investing millions of dollars in a wide range of cleanup and improvement projects in and around Commencement Bay, the Port is engaged in protecting air, land and water, restoring habitat, reducing diesel emissions, improving stormwater quality and partnering with the community. This is highlighted by two projects which have recently received an award and an honorable mention from the American Association of Port Authorities: the Port’s demolition program, which recovered and recycled more than 7,000 tons of material being removed from the Blair-Hylebos Peninsula, and the Gog-le-hi-te II Habitat Action Project, a mitigation effort to offset lost juvenile salmon habitat.
Total TEUs (000) International Domestic Lifts (000) Autos (000 units) Breakbulk (000 ST) Logs (000 board ft)
% Change 2011-2012
1,455 977 479 338 121 92 69,945
1,457 987 470 333 144 125 100,000
1,499 1,029 470 362 129 125 130,000 Forecast
2.9 4.3 0.0 8.9 -10.6 0.0 30.0
Pierce County Economic Index ¦
2007-2012 PCEI Summary and Forecast
Note: Data used to construct the charts, graphs and tables ∙ Pierce County, Washington
PCEI Index 1985=100
NonAgricultural Employment (x1000)
Percent Unemployment Rate
Taxable Retail Sales (millions of $)
Housing Activity Index 1990=100
2007 2007 2007 2007 2008 2008 2008 2008 2009 2009 2009 2009 2010 2010 2010 2010 2011 2011 2011 Forecast 2011 Forecast 2012 Forecast 2012 Forecast 2012 Forecast 2012 Forecast
Qtr 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr 4 Qtr 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr 4 Qtr 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr 4 Qtr 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr 4 Qtr 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr 4 Qtr 1 Qtr 2 Qtr 3 Qtr 4
197.13 199.47 200.48 201.42 201.65 202.81 203.27 201.05 200.98 201.62 198.33 195.91 192.53 192.78 194.45 197.40 199.75 202.96 204.82 205.98 207.06 206.94 208.45 209.26
275.67 281.73 282.13 285.50 279.33 282.37 281.17 279.47 270.83 270.67 266.63 267.20 261.43 266.50 264.27 266.43 261.53 265.67 265.07 266.97 262.48 266.92 266.84 268.84
5.07 4.60 4.67 4.57 5.40 5.30 5.63 6.30 9.23 9.83 9.87 9.73 11.37 9.90 9.43 9.07 10.27 9.60 9.43 9.06 9.67 8.72 8.55 8.04
1411.882 1518.671 1553.893 1601.366 1340.916 1434.081 1411.258 1373.646 1182.046 1266.311 1320.564 1358.523 1197.449 1289.481 1385.670 1468.180 1264.037 1352.372 1418.179 1492.003 1293.975 1396.530 1447.740 1518.793
226.25 220.37 207.81 197.51 188.29 174.21 170.44 164.83 160.54 161.55 165.54 171.38 179.66 176.73 168.55 162.94 157.16 158.72 161.79 164.56 165.45 166.28 166.15 166.15
¦ Pierce County Economic Index
Key and Legend
Key local economic variables for Pierce County, Washington as of December, 2011. PCEI Quarterly Data figures from First Quarter 2007 through Second Quarter 2011 are actual data. PCEI forecast of quarterly figures are from Third Quarter 2011 through Fourth Quarter 2012. *Housing Activity Index: A volume of new or used homes for sale or sold. A value of 166.15 means the number of homes for sale or sold is 66.15% above the 1990 average of the number of homes for sale or sold. TEU’s = Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units. This is a standard measure of containers, which come in a variety of lengths that are converted to this standard for data compatibility. The short ton is a unit of weight equal to 2,000 lb. (about 907.18474 kg). Total Personal Income Annual Data are actual data from 2003 to 2009. The forecast of annual figures for
Total Personal Income are from 2010 through 2012. The Port of Tacoma Containerized Cargo Annual Data are actual data from 2007 through 2010. The forecast of annual figures for the Port of Tacoma Containerized Cargo is from 2011-2016. The 2012 Horizons Economic Forecast event and the Pierce County Economic Index (PCEI) report is sponsored by: Presenting Sponsor: Comcast Speaker Sponsor: Propel Insurance Premier Horizons Sponsor: Puget Sound Energy and Group Health Cooperative Supporting Sponsor: AmericanWest Bank Report Sponsor: Tacoma Public Utilities TV/Broadcast Sponsor: Waste Connections, Inc. Media Sponsor: Business Examiner Media Group Table Decor Sponsor: Port of Tacoma Coffee & Connections Sponsor: Targa Sound Terminal
Total Personal Income 2005$ (x1000)
24,075,889 24,614,175 25,579,464 27,175,790 28,592,458 29,232,333 29,617,354 29,545,386 30,490,839 31,359,828
1.84% 2.24% 3.92% 6.24% 5.21% 2.24% 1.32% -0.24% 3.20% 2.85%
2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Port of Tacoma Containerized Cargo (TEU’s)(000)
1,925 1,861 1,546 1,455 1,457 1,499 1,522 - 2,003* 1,544 - 2,030* 1,588 - 2,086* 1,643 - 2,159*
Conservative Optimistic % Change % Change
-6.86% -3.32% -16.93% -5.89% 0.14% 2.88% 1.53% 1.45% 2.85% 3.46%
33.62% 1.35% 2.76% 3.50%
* Due to market uncertainty the Port of Tacoma is forecasting a possible range from conservative to optimistic for 2013 and beyond. Optimistic end of range assumes incremental new business.
Pierce County Economic Index ¦
The 2011 Pierce County Economic Index (PCEI) Report was presented to the community at the Horizons 2012 economic forecast event. Complementing the conference were presentations by several individuals.
Dr. Bruce Mann Dr. Douglas Goodman University of Puget Sound
A very special thanks is extended to University of Puget Sound, for their active support of Dr. Bruce Mann and Dr. Douglas Goodman, authors of the PCEI Report. The University of Puget Sound is an independent predominantly residential undergraduate liberal arts college with selected graduate programs building effectively on a liberal arts foundation. The University, as a community of learning, maintains a strong commitment to teaching excellence, scholarly engagement, and fruitful student-faculty interaction. Contributors to the PCEI Report are: Josh Adams, Business & Economic Analyst, Port of Tacoma and Tom Cain, Apartment Insights.
Dr. Arun Raha, Ph.D.
Chief Economist State of Washington
A special thanks to the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Arun Raha, Chief Economist for the State of Washington and Executive Director of the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. He is responsible for preparation and presentation of quarterly forecasts of Washington’s economy and General-Fund revenues. He also advises state legislative committees and other government agencies regarding economic and revenue activity in the state. Dr. Raha was formerly Vice-President, Economic Research, at Swiss Re in New York, a leading global reinsurer, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. There he was responsible for forecasts of North American macroeconomic, financial, and property-casualty insurance markets. Prior to that, he was Manager of Economic Analysis at Eaton Corporation, a global diversified industrial manufacturer in Cleveland, Ohio. Arun has won two national forecasting awards - The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s top overall forecast prize for 2007, and the Wall Street Journal’s forecasting award in January 2005. Arun Raha has served on the Ohio Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, and is a former member of the Board of the Automotive Market Research Council. 26 ¦ Pierce County Economic Index
Presenting Sponsor: Comcast Speaker Sponsor: Propel Insurance Premier Horizons Sponsor: Puget Sound Energy and Group Health Cooperative Supporting Sponsor: AmericanWest Bank Report Sponsor: Tacoma Public Utilities TV/Broadcast Sponsor: Waste Connections, Inc. Media Sponsor: Business Examiner Media Group Table Decor Sponsor: Port of Tacoma Coffee & Connections Sponsor: Targa Sound Terminal
PCEI Report Sponsor Tacoma Public Utilities
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Pierce County Economic Index ¦ 27
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