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April 2017

News in Brief

  • According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, the number of people from out of state being issued drivers licenses is growing in all four counties of the region (central Puget Sound) compared to the previous year. New drivers are coming mostly from the states of California, Texas, Oregon, Florida and Arizona. In King County, 11 percent of driver registrations were from outside the U.S. states. Kitsap had the lowest rate at 2 percent. Region wide, it was 8 percent. Licenses issued outside the U.S. states saw a sharp decrease in 2002, but are now more than double what they were in 2002, and the highest they have been since 2001. For King County, India is the biggest source of new driver registrations from outside the U.S states. But in the region's other counties, the top places outside the 50 U.S. states are Guam (Kitsap), America Samoa (Pierce), and Canada (Snohomish).

  • U.S. employers added a robust 235,000 jobs in February and raised pay at a healthy pace, signaling that the economy remains on solid footing. The unemployment rate dipped to a low 4.7 percent from 4.8 percent, according to the Labor Department. The strong job growth, decent pay gains and low unemployment rate make it all but certain that the Federal Reserve will raise short-term interest rates. February's job gains were boosted by 58,000 additional construction positions, the most in nearly a decade. The number of people seeking first-time unemployment benefits - a rough proxy for the pace of layoffs - reached a 44-year low in late February. In January, Americans bought homes at the fastest pace in a decade despite higher mortgage rates. That demand has spurred a 10.5 percent increase in home construction in the past 12 months.

  • Rising home prices are increasing homeowners' equity across the country. Nationwide, owners saw home equity rise, on average, by $13,700 during 2016, according to CoreLogic's latest "Homeowner Equity Report." States like Washington and Oregon had some of the largest home-price appreciation last year, up $31,000 and $27,000, respectively.

  • The University of Washington's medical school is again tops in the country for teaching primary care, family medicine and rural medicine, according to graduate-school rankings released by U.S. News & World Report. The UW's law school moved up a few places with a ranking of 30th, and the MBA program at the UW Foster School of Business held steady at No. 27. U.S. News bases its rankings on two types of data: expert opinions about program excellence, and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school's faculty, research and students. The magazine surveyed more than 1,970 graduate programs, and sent reputation surveys to more than 16,500 academics and professionals in the disciplines. Gonzaga's school of law ranked 112th, and Seattle University's law school ranked 120th.

  • King County, including the city of Seattle, had the fourth-highest population increase in the country from 2015 to 2016, according to data released in late March by the U.S. Census Bureau. The data showed that King County gained about 36,000 more residents between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016. Some 15,500 new residents migrated to the area from other countries, while 8,511 moved here from other locations inside the United States. In addition, there were 25,905 births in King County during the year-long period, which were partially offset by 13,580 deaths. King County's total population at the end of the period was 2,149,970. One other Washington state county - Kittitas - made the nation's top 10 in population growth as measured by percentage. That county's population grew by 4.2 percent - to 44,866 - making it 10th highest when measured by that criteria. The area with the highest population growth anywhere in the nation was Phoenix, Ariz., and surrounding Maricopa County. Houston, Texas, and surrounding Harris County was second-highest, and Clark County, Nev. - the home of Las Vegas - was third. The counties containing Chicago, Detroit and the independent city of Baltimore were the biggest population losers in the United States during the period.

  • For the fifth straight month, Greater Seattle has registered the sharpest home-price increases of any major market in the country. The typical price of a home across King, Snohomish and Pierce counties rose 11.3 percent in January compared to a year ago, according to the monthly Case-Shiller home price index. Portland was second in home price increases at 9.7 percent, and then followed by Denver, Dallas, and Tampa. Nationally, prices grew 5.9 percent, a 31-month high. Low inventory of homes for sale continues to be a problem locally and nationally.