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Posts tagged: Spokane County

‘Green Friday’ sales flat, Green Leaf leads local sellers last month

Green Friday” may have prompted a surge of sales at local marijuana retailers, but more revenue was reported the day before Thanksgiving and earnings modestly increased from prior Friday rushes in November, according to numbers reported by the state's Liquor Control Board.

Statewide, legal pot shops made $157,686 on Friday, down significantly from Wednesday's total of more than $251,000. It appears shoppers wanted to stock up for the long holiday weekend, rather than brave the retail lines on America's largest shopping day of the season.

Still, most local store owners said they opened with lines out the door Friday, and the Liquor Control Board only reports total sales numbers, not how much marijuana was sold. Some retailers were offering strands at up to 20 percent off all weekend.

The state Liquor Control Board also released this week the total sales numbers for Spokane County's eight retailers in November. The first shop to open, Spokane Green Leaf, led the way with $236,900 in sales last month. Up-and-comer Cannabis & Glass, which was not open when the month began, sold $13,355 worth of marijuana in November. That was good enough to beat seven other shops statewide that reported sales last month, but was the least among the county's eight operating businesses.


A total of 74 marijuana businesses reported sales to the state last month. Source: Washington State Liquor Control Board.

In total, Spokane County's pot shops earned more than $1 million in sales, roughly 1/8 of the revenue statewide. Sales activity generated more than $252,000 in excise tax revenue for the state. Currently, tax funds from marijuana sales are pooled and spent throughout the state, a process some lawmakers and shop owners would like to see changed to keep tax money closer to home.

Saturday marks two years since the voter-approved Initiative-502 became law, kickstarting the legal marijuana industry in Washington state. Look for an overview of the nascent industry in this weekend's Spokesman-Review.

Jobless rate in Washington drops to 7 percent, down slightly from month before

The state AP office provided Wednesday's update on April's Washington state jobless rates.

Washington state’s unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent in April, and the state added an estimated 3,800 jobs last month, according to data from the state Employment Security Department.

The March jobless rate for the state was 7.3 percent.

The state has now regained about 78 percent of the more than 200,000 jobs lost during the recession, according to ESD numbers.

The state “labor market is continuing to improve at a moderate but accelerating rate, somewhat faster than the nation,” Scott Bailey, a labor economist for Employment Security, said in a written statement.

The national unemployment rate for April was 7.5 percent.

Spokane County and other individual county unemployment rates will be reported next week.

Since April 2012, when Washington state’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent, the state has gained a total of 67,200 jobs.

The latest figures show that economists significantly revised job loss numbers for March from an initial estimate of 5,500 down to 1,600 jobs.

Industries that saw the greatest job gains in April included retail trade, up 3,800 jobs; leisure and hospitality, up 1,600 jobs; and professional and business services, which gained 1,500 jobs.

Job losses were seen in education and health services, which lost 2,500 jobs; construction, down 1,100; and transportation, warehousing and utilities, which lost 500 jobs. Wholesale trade saw a decrease of 300 jobs.

Census: Number of Spokane businesses dropped

Spokane County had fewer businesses in 2011 than it did in pre-recession 2007, new Census figures show. Annual payroll was down and the number of businesses in all size categories had fallen — except one. That category is businesses with more than 1,000 employees.

There were nine businesses with 1,000 or more paid employees in 2011, up from seven in 2007, Census data shows.

The report, called “County Business Patterns: 2011,” doesn’t break down employers by name.

But according to the Journal of Business Book of Lists, the over-1,000 crowd for 2011 includes Spokane’s two big hospitals and Rockwood Clinic; URM and Wal-Mart; Avista; Northern Quest Casino; West Corp., the big call-center company; and Gonzaga University. The Census table doesn’t include most government employees.

Spokane County had 12,151 business establishments in 2011, compared with 12,961 in 2007. The largest category is very small businesses, with one to four employees. There were 6,410 such businesses in 2011, down from 6,648 in 2007.

 


  

Did Spokane lose 500 higher ed jobs during March? Well, we intend to find out

For not the first time, the state unemployment report for Spokane left us dealing with mysteries.

The story, appearing Wednesday, reported March's county unemployment rate went down from 9.8 percent to 9.1 percent.

But, using different data from a different survey, the state also said Spokane lost 1,100 jobs. That will happen sometimes, when the two data sets move in different directions.

But the second bigger mystery involves a question about 500 positions lost in Spokane during March among the three higher ed institutions, WSU, EWU and the Community Colleges of Spokane.

We sent off a note to the WSU Spokane folks, asking if they were part of the 500 job decline.

We did get an answer, thanks to solid efforts by former newsman Doug Nadvornick.

Doug tracked down the numbers and came up with the basic response, that the state's tracking system found that WSU had lost eight “covered” positions and 23 “non-covered” positions. Essentially, around 31 jobs were eliminated or lost at WSU.

About a handful of those would have been from the transfer of the Interdisciplinary Design Program moving from Spokane to Pullman.

Which leaves the implication that the other 470 lost positions have to be from CCS and from EWU.

And that's going to be another story. Stay tuned. We'll see how this turns out.

Employment Security Department Regional Labor Economist Doug Tweedy said in the story that these numbers are preliminary, and that revised additional data in the next four weeks should clarify the picture.

We hope so, and we'll report what we get.

Washington February jobless rate stuck at 7.5 percent for third month in a row

From the state Employment Security Department:

Washington added an estimated 4,000 jobs in February, while the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 7.5 percent for the third month in a row.

Individual county jobless numbers will be released on Tuesday.

“February was relatively uneventful,” said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a labor economist for the Employment Security Department. “The job growth was close to the monthly average for the past year, with no big surprises.”

The state has added about 65,000 jobs in the past year, averaging about 5,000 per month. So far, the state has regained about 70 percent of the 205,000 jobs that were lost due to the recession.

Industries with the most estimated job gains in February were education and health services, up 3,000; manufacturing, up 2,900; professional and business services, up 1,200; wholesale trade, up 600; information, up 400 jobs; other services, up 400 jobs; and government, up 400 jobs.

Industries showing the most job losses last month included construction, down 3,600 jobs; leisure and hospitality, down 1,100; and transportation, warehousing and utilities, down 400.jobs.

Either March 2009 or December 2008: which is the best month to compare Spokane’s jobless rate?

Tuesday's state number for Spokane County unemployment led to a story that noted September's 8.2 percent is the lowest for this area since 2009.

Specifically, since March 2009. In that month the rate was 8.6 percent. Since then, the rates all were in the high 8s or 9s.

That March 2009 number was the “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate.

However, if you ask Doug Tweedy, the state labor economist for Spokane, the last time our jobless rate was as low was actually December 2008.

He prefers the seasonally nonadjusted rate for Spokane County's jobless rate.

Which is the better number?  Beats the heck out of me.

The state uses seasonal adjustments to account for built-in swings and shifts in employment due to seasonal trends. Such as resorts hiring in the summer, or schools bringing workers back on in the fall.

But Tweedy said the adjusted number has been impacted by being baselined against a series of disruptive recessionary job numbers, and that affects the reliability of that measure.

He also noted that he's found the adjusted number is sometimes better and sometimes worse in trying to find an accurate unemployment rate.

Anyone care to sound off on this topic?

A second take on why Spokane saw a big surge in solo business owners

Time to clarify our earlier post about the number of possible new solo business owners in Spokane County.

That post, published here last week, said one study suggests 5,000 new solo businesses started in Spokane since 2006.

Today we spoke with Gary Smith, the retired WSU economist who runs the NWREAP site, where we spotted that number. Dr. Smith helped explain a few points he views differently than we do.

First, we hamfistedly said in our headline the growth of 5,000 jobs occurred over six years. It was really over FOUR years, covering 2006 to 2010.

Smith also took some exception to the following paragraph that interpreted the number of proprietors in Spokane since 2006. The 2006 number was 46,200 business proprietors, based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

We wrote: In 2010, as the recession has pushed many people out of traditional workplaces, Smith's numbers say Spokane's proprietor group has grown to 51,016.

Dr. Smith said he doesn't agree that the economy's downturn spurred this growth. He said the actual big upswing in proprietorships occurred exactly in 2006 and 2007 and generally stayed there through 2010, the last year the BEA has numbers for.

If anything, he contends the upswing in sole proprietors stems from the strong economy in 2006 and 2007, before the economy tanked.

If that's so, the next numbers that BEA come up with, for 2011, should show a drop from 2010's level. Those numbers will be out in November. We'll look at them and see if that's the case.

If they don't go down, we'll call it a victory for our team.

Stay tuned.

Study says Spokane gained 5,000 solo business owners in six years

This being labor day, two SR writers (Tom Sowa and Scott Maben) produced a story running Sunday that looks at what the local economy offers for job growth.

One piece of information that popped up in the research was a report on the number of business sole proprietors in the local economy.

That's not a number the federal or state economists regularly track. But Gary Smith, who runs a site called the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Analysis Project (PNREAP) has done some data-gathering and has some numbers worth considering.

Smith has been a regional economist with Washington State University. We tried to reach him to look at the method used in gathering these numbers. We didn't connect. But we will follow up after Labor Day. His site cites the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis.

His numbers say: in 2006 Spokane County had 46,200 sole business proprietors — people who were a one-person business or one so small that it didn't pay payroll taxes to the state. Of those 2,000 were in the farm or food industry.

In 2010, as the recession has pushed many people out of traditional workplaces, Smith's numbers say Spokane's proprietor group has grown to 51,016.  Of those, 2,300 are in farming, according to the data he's collected.

That's a net gain since 2006 of almost 5,000 more people running a sole proprietorship.  It's not clear if those are people who also qualify as part time or full time workers for another company.

State approaching 1,404 liquor retailers; latest Spokane spirits count: 99

Today we ran a quick story on the plans by Spokane's Dry Fly Distilling to develop a system of getting more of its gin, vodka and whiskey across the state, once the floodgates open on June 1. That's when the vast changes pushed through by Initiative 1183 take effect.

The story said the state will likely have more than 1,600 spirits retailers when that date comes, and that Dry Fly clearly wants to be more widely distributed than it is today.

A day later, we can be a bit more precise than that.

According to the state Liquor Control Board website, one can look and find exactly how many spirits retailer licenses have been applied for.

Statewide, as of April 24, the total is 1,404 applications, including applications by former operators of contract liquor stores (for an example, we wrote about the store in Medical Lake a month ago).

Add the 167 or so state stores whose liquor licenses were recently auctioned off, that brings the current total to 1,571 licenses, either approved or pending.

One caution: applications for the state stores are not yet officially filed.

Will it hit 1,600?  Very likely. The Spokane County application total, as of April 24, is 99 locations.

A month ago when we wrote about the list of applicants, the statewide count was just 1,200 and the Spokane County count was 90 license applications.

Washington state sees same housing trend: more home sales, falling prices

A week ago we ran out some numbers on the increasing number of home sales in Spokane County. The trend here is an increase number of sales, especially over the final six months of 2011 and continuing in January.

But average and median home sales continued to fall, compared with one year earlier. The reason, as stated by Rob Higgins of the Spokane Association of Realtors, is the large supply of distressed properties still being moved off the market.

So we will here offer a statewide view: Washington’s housing market in the final quarter of 2011 saw the highest seasonally-adjusted sales since the second quarter of 2010, according to the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington.

Sales strength reflected bargain hunting as well as the persistently large number of distressed properties being sold in lower-priced neighborhoods, said Glenn Crellin, associate director of the Runstad Center.

Statewide the seasonally adjusted sales rate during the quarter was 91,080 homes, meaning that if the relative sales rate for the quarter were continued for a year, that number of homes would be sold. The rate is 6 percent above the prior quarter and 9.6 percent higher than the closing quarter of 2010, when tax credit programs to stimulate housing demand were ending.

Just like in Spokane, statewide sales prices continued dropping. Median home prices continued to reflect the weak economy, Crellin said. The statewide median home price was $219,700, the lowest fourth-quarter price since 2003 when the median was $205,700.

That median home sale price declined 8 percent between the end of 2010 ($238,800) and the end of 2011.

Sales, median home prices and affordability data for each of Washington’s 39 counties are available at the Runstad website.

GSI says it will study raising the idea of a Spokane port district

Spokane-based Greater Spokane Inc. is launching a preliminary study to determine if area voters would support a port district.

Mentioned during the recent GSI annual meeting, the idea of a port district has resurfaced several times among proponents who say it can help economic development.

GSI CEO and President Rich Hadley said on Friday that the group will likely create a task force from area officials and business leaders to study the idea.

 In 1982 Spokane business leaders put a port district to voters and saw it defeated resoundingly, 4-to-1 against.

State law allows counties and government bodies to form a port district and raise funds through taxes. Port districts can be formed anywhere regardless of proximity to water or an airport.

Hadley said Spokane leaders met with officials from Benton County and Moses Lake, both of which have used port districts to boost economic activity.

Moses Lake used its district in 1998 to enlist a large expansion by Genie Industries, which makes construction equipment. Genie built a manufacturing plant there after port officials spent $2.5 million renovating a former airplane hangar for the company's use.

Districts can focus on adding infrastructure to attract businesses or help existing firms expand. That can range from building new roads to adding utility lines, Hadley said. They also serve as marketing arms, encouraging new investment.

Spokane and Yakima are the only two Washington counties to not have a port district, he added.

In 2000 area officials studied the port district idea but shelved it when interest and momentum behindg the idea lagged.

A lot of people filled out applications for Trader Joe’s jobs

About 2,500 people turned in applications this week to work at the new Spokane Trader Joe's store, said company spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki.

A new photo of applicants filling out forms outside the building will appear in Saturday's edition of The Spokesman-Review and Spokesman.com.

Mochizuki said not all the Spokane store jobs have been filled, and more applications will be accepted next week.  The location is the Spokane Lincoln Heights Shopping Center.

Spokane County foreclosure rate inched up in June, compared with 2010

CoreLogic, a company that aggregates real estate data, said Spokane County's foreclosure rate inched up in June compared with 12 months ago.

Here are the general data, which are not pleasant. They show a clear steady increase in delinquencies. Though the increase is minimal month by month, the trend is disturbingly upward. (Click the map of Spokane County for a larger format version.)

The trend line for 90-day delinquencies and foreclosures in Spokane.

Spokane 90+ Day Delinquency Rate Foreclosure Rate
June 2011 4.58% 1.69%
May 2011 4.57% 1.67%
April 2011 4.56% 1.71%
June 2010 4.40% 1.27%
May  2010 4.39% 1.25%
April 2010 4.38% 1.20%

Source: CoreLogic: www.corelogic.com

READ below the jump for a key explanation of what CoreLogic is tracking in these data.

Comcast ups cable prices in Spokane, and the timing is notable

We were snoozing or on vacation when, earlier this summer, Comcast announced TV and other service rate hikes for Washington customers. The formal announcement said:

“We are making investments in next-generation technology to add value to our products and improve service. We’ve also launched new interactive applications and multi-platform content that customers want and value.  We’ve worked hard to hold down price adjustments, even given the impact of higher programming costs, and in 2011, the average customer bill will increase by 2.8 percent.  These adjustments will not impact about half of our customers because they currently receive services as part of a promotional offer.”

So, a good number of cable customers in Spokane didn't see a hike. But once those promotional deals end, the hike will come.

What's notable is the timing of the increases. This increase took effect July 1.

The previous new rate hike took effect on Aug. 1, 2010.

The one before that took effect on Oct. 6, 2009.

It used to be Comcast went roughly 12 months before increasing prices. That's apparently been replaced by some other, quicker system. We need to do some research on what the industry practice is.  Do cable companies no longer bother to wait a year before another price hike?

We asked Steve Kipp, a Comcast West side spokesman, to elaborate on the pricing schedule. We wondered if the pattern is to squeeze increases in a little earlier each year.

Kipp emailed back a quick reply, saying he would not comment.
  

Spokane foreclosure, delinquencies rose in May, says CoreLogic

Foreclosures in Spokane County are a growth industry. A recent CoreLogic study found Spokane foreclosures increased in May compared to the same period last year.

CoreLogic's data show the rate of foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans is 1.67 percent for the month of May 2011, an increase of 0.42 percentage points compared to May of 2010 when the rate was 1.25 percent.

Foreclosure activity in Spokane is less than the U.S. rate of 3.45 percent for May. That's a 1.78 percentage point difference in Spokane's favor.

Spokane has a mortgage delinquency rate of 4.56 percent. The term refers to mortgage loans 90 days or more delinquent.

A year ago in May 2010, the delinquency rate was 4.40 percent, showing a 0.16 percent hike year over year.  

The image shows the May 2011 CoreLogic map of foreclosures in Spokane County. Click image for slightly larger version; color key shows the varying foreclosure rates.

Spokane County’s rate of patents stagnant, according to Indicators report

The Eastern Washington University-sponsored Community Indicators Initiative recently posted a summary of how Spokane and the area are doing in numbers of patents awarded.

The partents-awarded indicator shows Spokane is doing less well than the rest of the state (forget comparing Spokane with Seattle, as it makes no sense). In general, the number of patents awarded in any community is a fair measure of the level of innovation and dynamic business development.

The summary, penned by Community Indicators Initiative Manager Anna Halloran, is at http://www.communityindicators.ewu.edu/newsletter/page87.html. The chart above is from the CCI newsletter. The red line in Spokane County patents, per thousand; the green line is Washington state.

The key point is that Spokane's economy isn't gaining steam in part because we're not producing enough young companies and eager professionals that are creating patents and product innovations.

First the good news: Spokane County residents or firms obtained more patents in 2010 compared to the year before. The gain was from 75 awarded in '09 to 105 in 2010.

But compared with the state, we're not faring well at all. In general, Halloran notes, Spokane County's patent rate, per thousand residents, has remained flat for the past 10 years.

In 2010, Washington state's patent rate per 1,000 people was 1.02, an increase of close to 143 percent from its patent rate going back to 2000.

Other data worth noting from the report:

  • Washington state received 6,835 U.S. patents in 2010.
  • Seattle accounted for 2,642 of them.
  • Pullman residents or businesses received 39 patents in 2010.

City of Spokane’s sales taxes drooped in 2010, compared with prior year

Last week we spotted an item on First Quarter sales taxes for Spokane County.  The item noted the county saw a very tiny uptick, of about 2.7% from the same period a year earlier. (Though listed as first quarter, that number is actually for November-January 2011.)

That made us ask how the City of Spokane fared in total sales taxes collected during 2010.

We go the answer from Rick Romero, the city's internal auditor. No big surprise, the city's take from taxes was down about half of one percent, (.005) for 2010 compared with the year earlier.

That covers not just retail sales, but taxes on services and a few other categories including lodging and dining.

The raw numbers: 

  • Spokane's 2009 taxable sales: roughly $3.7 billion.
  • Spokane's 2010 taxable sales: roughly $3.67 billion.

Romero noted that for 2010, the city reaped about $33 million from the $3.67 billion collected and sent to the governor.

Where are people moving to and from? This Forbes map shows 2008 patterns

We love any decent web visualization that explains interesting trends or developments. This map, developed for Forbes.com, nicely illustrates the movement of U.S. residents to and from different areas of the country during 2008.

The link is  here.

The map takes some time to load initially.

By clicking on the county you want, the resulting black or red lines illustrate the relative flow of population, to or from that location.

Click, for instance, on Kootenai County to see where people there have moved from.

My only quibble is that it's not fully up-to-date. It would be even better to have a data map for the years 2007-2010.

Kootenai County outpaces Spokane for total construction in September

McGraw-Hill Construction just published these numbers for construction in Spokane and Kootenai counties during September.

For Spokane, the most obvious big leap in in residential construction, comparing this past September to the same month of 2009. Two other major building trends are evident: Even with Spokane having a 34 percent year-over-year gain in residential building this past month, Kootenai County shows more robust construction in that sector.

And nonresidential buldings (which are basically all commercial, manufacturing or school-related projects) continue lagging along. It’s clear the abundant supply of office vacancies plays a key role in holding down nonresidential construction.

Spokane County

                              2010              2009                Change in percent

  • Nonresidential  $5,495,000    $5,454,000     1
  • Residential       $18,135,000  $13,535,000  34
  • TOTAL             $23,630,000  $18,989,000  24

Kootenai County

                               2010             2009               Change in percent

  • Nonresidential $5,420,000   $5,546,000       -2
  • Residential:     $19,173,000  $16,847,000    14
  • TOTAL            $24,593,000  $22,393,000    10




 

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

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