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January 2018

News in Brief

  • Households in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area of Washington state spent an average of 33.4 percent more than the average U.S. household, a new federal study found. The study, conducted over the past two years for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that the average household in the Seattle metropolitan area spent $74,723 per year, significantly more than the $56,648 average expenditure level for households in the United States. The study also found that annual household income in the Seattle area averages $104,475 - which is also considerably higher than the national average of $72,156. Housing is the largest expenditure category for Seattle-area households, the research showed, averaging $24,993 per year - about a third of the area's average household budget. Seattle-area households spent 13.4 percent of their budgets on transportation, significantly lower than the national average of 16.4 percent. Of the $9,997 in annual transportation expenditures in Seattle, 87.6 percent was spent buying and maintaining private vehicles, compared to the national average of 93.1 percent. The portion of a Seattle household's budget spent on food, 13.6 percent, was not significantly different from the 12.6-percent U.S. average. Seattle-area households spent 58.3 percent of their food dollars on food at home and 41.7 percent on food away from home. Interestingly, the study found that Seattle households spend only about 0.3 percent of their budget on tobacco products and smoking supplies - about half the national average. But Seattleites spend about the same percentage of their income on alcohol as the rest of the country - about 1 percent of the total household budget. Data in the study is from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, which the U.S. Census Bureau conducts for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data in the study were averaged over a two-year period, 2015 and 2016.
  • On Dec. 7, 2017, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that HUD will no longer insure mortgages encumbered with a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) assessment. This reversal of HUD policy is a victory for the National Association of REALTORSĀ® whose members sounded concern that PACE liens would take a first-lien position over FHA in instances of default or foreclosure, undermining the government's collateral position and disrupting the secured lending process. The new prohibition on PACE liens goes into effect for FHA case numbers issued 30 days from the announcement. Mortgages with PACE liens previously insured by FHA will not be adversely affected. 2018 NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall issued the following statement on behalf of NAR: "FHA's PACE announcement is a smart step that will protect taxpayers and strengthen the overall program for homebuyers. NAR supports voluntary, incentive-based programs that encourage owners to make their homes more energy efficient, but not at the expense of FHA or the strength of their portfolio. NAR pushed hard for this change and we applaud FHA's attention to the issue."
  • The Federal Reserve is raising its key interest rate for the third time this year and foresees three additional hikes in 2018, a vote of confidence that the U.S. economy remains on solid footing 8Ā½ years after the end of the Great Recession. The Fed said last month that it's lifting its short-term rate by a modest quarter-point to a still-low range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. It is also continuing to slowly shrink its bond portfolio. Together, the two steps could lead over time to higher loan rates for consumers and businesses and slightly better returns for savers.
  • According to 24/7 Wall Street (via USA Today), seven out of the top 25 US metro areas that significantly added jobs in 2017 are in Washington state. And no, Seattle is not on the list. 24/7 Wall Street calculated the change in employment in the nation's major metro areas between January and October 2017. One trend sticks out among the cities on the list - the greatest increase in available jobs occurred in the mining, logging, and construction sector. Those industries added the most jobs. The following list shows the employment change in the city or region:

1. Bellingham: 5.5 percent increase
4. Mount Vernon - Anacortes: 5 percent increase
10. Spokane Valley - 4.6 percent increase
12. Longview: 4.5 percent increase
13. Olympia - Tumwater: 4.4 percent increase
18. Bremerton - Silverdale: 3.9 percent increase
19. Portland, Vancouver, Hillsboro, Ore / Wash.: 3.8 percent increase

Bellingham tops the list for adding the most jobs in the country, according to the report. No Washington cities appeared on the list of areas losing the most jobs.

  • Seattle drivers who complain about their fellow Washington state road warriors may be surprised to learn we're not the most terrible drivers in the U.S., but we're trending that way as reported in The Seattle Times. Our state moved up four positions, from ninth to fifth worst, according to an analysis of Federal Highway Administration data on road accidents, fatalities, DUIs and other traffic incidents by QuoteWizard. The study reviewed year-over-year data through October. The results of the study by the Seattle-based insurance comparison marketplace, released Thursday, gave a fairly dim view of drivers across the country, showing a 14 percent increase in car-related deaths since 2015. The cause? Americans are simply spending more time on the road, and still texting and talking while driving, the study found. Who's the worst? Well, it's our friends to the south in California, which has five of the 10 worst-driver cities and jumped from second place to first this year over last because of an increase in DUIs and traffic citations. The study says Washington's accident rate leaped from 33rd worst all the way to 14th over the same period last year. Here are the rankings of the nation's five worst driving states for 2017, from worst to best:
    • California
    • Minnesota
    • Utah
    • South Carolina
    • Washington

On the other hand, these are the five best driving states for 2017:

    • Rhode Island
    • Florida
    • Mississippi
    • Michigan
    • Arkansas

  • Massachusetts is the healthiest state in the nation, according to a new report from the United Health Foundation that looks at the healthy and not-so-healthy habits of people across the United States. The 2017 annual report looks at 35 different factors affecting people's health including rates of smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, low birth weight, drug deaths, environmental conditions like air pollution, and the number of doctors, dentists, and mental health providers per 100,000 people in their state. Overall, the report reveals the nation is facing serious public health challenges, including rising rates of premature deaths and an uneven distribution of health care providers.

    The top 10 healthiest states:
    1. Massachusetts
    2. Hawaii
    3. Vermont
    4.  Utah
    5. Connecticut
    6. Minnesota
    7.  Colorado
    8. New Hampshire
    9. Washington
    10. New York

The 10 least healthy states:

    1. Mississippi
    2. Louisiana
    3. Arkansas
    4. Alabama
    5. West Virginia
    6. Tennessee
    7. South Carolina
    8.  Oklahoma
    9.  Kentucky
    10. Georgia