News In Brief
July 8, 2019
Washington was recently named the Best State Economy in the nation by WalletHub, and it had a healthy lead over second-place Utah. The agency compared all 50 states plus D.C. in 28 metrics across three general categories: Economic Activity, Economic Health, and Innovation Potential. As you might imagine, Washington scored well in all three categories, including first place in Economic Activity Rank, 2nd in Innovation Potential and 4th in Economic Health. Among individual categories, the Evergreen State scored tops in GDP Growth and Exports per Capita, 4th in percent of jobs in high-tech industries and 10th in startup activity. Scores were added up into a 100-point scale with Washington finishing at 77.60, ahead of Utah (73.51), and Massachusetts (70.23). California and Colorado rounded out the Top 5. Oregon landed in 8th. The state with the worst economy? It's a near 5-way tie at the bottom with Alaska faring the worst, just ahead of Louisiana, Mississippi, Hawaii and West Virginia.
A new study by navigation system developer TomTom shows Seattle ranked in the top 10 for worst traffic cities in North America, and the fifth worst in the United States, with an overall congestion level of 31%. Congestion levels were measured in the TomTom Traffic Index by establishing a base travel time, or how quickly a driver can move from point A to B in free-flowing traffic conditions, and comparing it to the average actual travel time. The 31% congestion level indicates that a drive that would typically take a half hour, for example, the trip would take a typical Seattle motorist a little over 39 minutes. This was the same level of congestion as the city experienced in the year prior, the TomTom Traffic Index indicates. Both 2018 and 2017 saw Dec. 25 as the least-congested day of the year, with 6% congestion in 2017 dropping to 2% congestion last year. The worst days and times to drive? The 5 p.m. hour was easily the worst on weekdays, especially Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which saw congestion levels of 69%, 71% and 73% respectively. The 8 a.m. morning commute on Tuesday was the worst with a 62% congestion level, while Wednesday and Thursday clocked in at 59% congestion during that hour.
Home prices in 2018 climbed 4.5%, while incomes grew 3.2%, according to CoreLogic real estate figures and government wage data released in early June. The gap suggests that affordability is worsening. Still, this gap appears to be narrowing relative in much of the country as gains in average hourly earnings have risen as the unemployment rate has fallen. Meanwhile, a slowdown in homebuying since 2018 has limited price gains in real estate and improved affordability. Across the country, there are significant variations in this trend as some markets are seeing affordability worsen and others have seen it stabilize after rapid growth. Home prices in the Boise, Idaho area jumped 16.3%, significantly higher than the 3.7% gain in incomes. The Florida retirement community known as The Villages saw a similar trend as incomes rose 3.1% while home values increased 7.7%. Places such as New York, Seattle and San Francisco are already pricing out residents, forcing many to stay as renters or move to cheaper cities. But in the past year, rising incomes in these areas and slowing growth in home prices has improved affordability slightly. This doesn't mean that middle-class workers can suddenly afford to buy in these communities, so much as the squeeze isn't as great as it was at the start of 2018. A few major metro areas have seen homes prices and incomes grow roughly in sync such that there have been minimal changes in affordability, including Atlanta, Louisville and Birmingham, Alabama.
More rich millennials are moving to Washington than any other state in the nation except California, according to a newly released analysis. The study, by the financial planning website SmartAsset and based on the latest IRS data available, found a net inflow of 1,920 affluent millennials into Washington state in one year. That breaks down to a total inflow of 5,729 rich millennials and a total outflow of 3,809. Washington state's increase was second only to California, which had a net inflow of 3,597 wealthy millennials. The analysis defined rich millennials as people under the age of 35 with adjusted gross incomes of at least $100,000. Other findings of the study:
The home to Washington State University has been chosen as the best city to live in Washington, according to a new study. ChamberOfCommerce.org says Pullman came out tops among cities they studied with populations over 25,000 in such categories as: employment (number of establishments, median earnings); housing (owner-occupied housing with a mortgage, monthly housing costs); quality of life (work commute, poverty levels); education (percentage with a bachelor's degree or higher); and health (obesity ratios). Pullman was lauded for its "lush natural surroundings" and a "strong agricultural tradition" as well as an affluent and well-educated populace. Neighborhoods on Seattle's Eastside also scored well with Redmond (2), Issaquah (3), Sammamish (4) and Kirkland (5) rounding out the Top 5. Seattle ranked 12th, Sequim and Port Angeles ranked back-to-back at 14th and 15th and Bellevue came in at No. 16. At the bottom of their list at No. 57 is Tacoma.