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February 2021

News In Brief

February 4, 2021

  • Washington is one of the nation's worst states to drive in, according to a new study released late January. The study, by personal finance website WalletHub, found that Washington ranks as the third-worst state for drivers, thanks mainly to steep gas prices, high rates of car theft, poor overall road quality, traffic congestion and other factors. The only states with a worse rating than Washington are California and Hawaii, the report found. The best state for drivers is Texas, followed by Indiana at No. 2 and North Carolina at No. 3, according to the analysis. The study arrived at the rankings by comparing all 50 states across 31 key metrics, such as traffic congestion, gas prices, auto maintenance costs, car theft rate and number of days with precipitation. Specifically, the analysis found that Washington has the third-highest gas prices in the nation, the eighth-worst roads and ninth-highest car theft rate. The Evergreen State also ranks below average for rush-hour traffic congestion and auto maintenance costs. The only categories in which Washington was rated above average were its overall safety ranking, the number of car dealerships per capita and the number of auto repair shops per capita. The study also found that traffic congestion costs U.S. drivers $88 billion per year and wastes 99 hours of their time. Due to COVID-19, however, 2020's traffic congestion numbers were lower than the year before. As of October 2020, cumulative travel on roads in 2020 was over 380 billion vehicle miles fewer than the same period in 2019, a reduction of 13.9%.

  • Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, will run for mayor of Seattle, her campaign announced late January. Echohawk, who has been involved in the city's police reform efforts as a member of the Community Police Commission and says she has never lost sight of historical suffering, joins a slim list of people interested in taking over for Mayor Jenny Durkan, who has said she will not run again. "I'm running for Mayor of Seattle because I love this city, and we have a once-in-a-generation chance to rethink how it works, and who it works for," Echohawk said on her website to announce her run. "If we take a people-first approach to renewal then we can become as transformative as our communities demand us to be." Andrew Grant Houston, an architect and urban designer, and Lance Randall, who leads a South Seattle economic-development nonprofit, also have announce their candidacy.

  • One in four homeowners have lived in their home for more than 20 years - the highest level that owners with that tenure has ever reached, a new Redfin study shows. That's due in large part to the aging in place trend, which is accelerating during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Americans stay in their homes longer, housing shortages are growing. The typical homeowner in 2020 had lived in their home for 13 years, a big jump from 8.7 years a decade earlier, according to the Redfin study. Longer homeownership tenure has contributed to a logjam in housing inventory, which dropped 23% year over year in December to an all-time low: a 1.9-month supply at the current sales pace, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.  The COVID-19 pandemic is likely sidelining many potential home sellers who don't want to risk infection by allowing strangers inside for tours. Potential sellers also may be concerned about their ability to find a new home. Tight inventory is pressing on home prices: The median existing-home price in December was $309,800, up nearly 13% compared to a year earlier, according to NAR.

  • Seattle-area home prices in the fall continued to climb at a faster rate than almost anywhere in the country. In November, the year-over-year increase for Seattle-area homes was the second-highest in the country, behind only Phoenix, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index released late January. It was the 10th consecutive month of Seattle in the No. 2 spot. The index reports a three-month rolling average of home prices. Seattle-area prices include homes in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Seattle prices were up 12.7% from 2019, about 1 percentage point shy of Phoenix at 13.8%. San Diego, where home prices grew by the third-highest rate among major cities, saw a 12.3% increase. Seattle's increase was up from the 11.7% jump in October. In the Seattle area, the price of houses costing less than about $485,200 rose at a faster rate than more expensive homes. Those costing more than $726,600 grew at the slowest rate, about 12% compared to nearly 15% for the most affordable homes.

  • A new study ranks Seattle as the nation's No. 1 best metro area for STEM professionals in higher-paying tech fields. The study, by personal finance website WalletHub, found that the Seattle area not only has a huge percentage of jobs in STEM fields - short for science, technology, engineering and math - but also the engineering universities and wage growth to match. According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis, STEM professions are expected to grow 8% between 2019 and 2029, compared to just 3.4% for all other occupations. In addition, the median annual STEM wage is $86,980, compared to $38,160 for all non-STEM occupations. STEM careers also pay higher salaries and boast far fewer threats of unemployment compared with other types of jobs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, STEM jobs have been more resilient against job losses and more compatible with remote work compared to many other job types. To determine the best markets for STEM professionals, the WalletHub study compared the nation's 100 largest metro areas across 20 key metrics and found that the Seattle metro area (which includes Tacoma and Bellevue) boasted the highest overall score. Rounding out the top five metro areas for STEM professionals were Boston, Mass. (No. 2); Atlanta, Ga. (No. 3); Austin, Texas (No. 4); and Minneapolis, Minn. (No. 5). The study found that the worst five cities for STEM professionals were Jackson, Miss. (No. 100): Deltona, Fla.; (No. 99); Memphis, Tenn. (No. 98); Cape Coral, Fla. (No. 97); and Little Rock, Ark. (No. 96). Portland, Ore., ranked No. 32, according to the study