News In Brief
May 5, 2021
- Washington state's economy has weathered the coronavirus pandemic better than any other state in the nation, a newly released study has found. The report, by personal finance website WalletHub, compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 13 key metrics, including the share of employment from small businesses to the share of workers with access to paid sick leave and the increase in unemployment insurance claims. A score was then assigned to each state based on those metrics, and Washington state's economy ranked as the least impacted so far by the pandemic. Specifically, the study found that the Evergreen state has: One of the highest shares of workers who are able to work from home; A gross domestic product that is one of the least dependent on industries highly affected by the pandemic; A higher than average number of employees returning to work after being unemployed; A higher than average share of workers with access to paid sick leave. Arizona's economy was the second least affected by the pandemic, while Oregon was third, Utah was fourth and the District of Columbia was fifth. States hardest hit economically by the pandemic were Louisiana, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Ohio and Nevada. Experts say that states that did comparatively well through the pandemic are likely to remain in good condition as it ends.
- The new Northgate light rail station will open to passenger service on Sat., Oct. 2, extending the public transportation system's reach by another 4.3 miles, Sound Transit officials announced recently. The new extension, which reportedly is moving forward under budget, will take riders from Northgate to downtown Seattle in 14 minutes, with stops at underground stations in Seattle's University District and Roosevelt neighborhoods. Of the 4.3-mile extension, all but 0.8 miles of elevated track at Northgate are located underground. Officials said the opening of the Northgate station will kick off a three year period of major light rail extensions, nearly tripling the region's light rail system from 22 miles to 62 miles by 2024. Voters approved the Northgate light rail extension in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. Construction on the project began in 2012 following six years of planning.
- The Washington state Legislature has passed a measure that makes Juneteenth a legal state holiday. The measure making June 19 a state paid holiday passed the Democratic-led Senate on a bipartisan 47-1 vote and now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. The House passed the measure in February on an 89 -9 vote. Juneteenth commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free in 1865 in Galveston, Texas, where Union soldiers brought them the news two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
- Washington's unemployment rate dropped to 5.4% (March 2021), down slightly from the previous month's 5.6% rate. The state also added 23,100 jobs in March. Private sector employment increased by 18,600 jobs and government employment increased by 4,500 jobs. Leisure and hospitality, government and education saw the largest gains, and manufacturing was the only sector that saw a downswing, with 200 job losses. The national unemployment rate decreased from 6.2% in February to 6% in March.
- Voters in King County will decide in August on a proposed extension and expansion of a levy that has given millions of dollars to programs over the last five years to foster child development. The Seattle Times reported that the Metropolitan King County Council approved County Executive Dow Constantine's proposal to send the expiring Best Starts for Kids levy to the ballot. Council staff say the proposal would raise about $872 million over the next six years. Constantine's office says the owner of a median-priced home in King County would pay $114 per year for the new levy.
- Fireworks will be illegal in all of unincorporated King County starting in 2022 under a measure approved Tuesday by the full King County Council. The legislation, sponsored by King County councilmembers Joe McDermott and Claudia Balducci, will prohibit all types of fireworks - including sparklers and smoke bombs. This new ban brings unincorporated King County communities in line with most other municipal jurisdictions in King County. Properly permitted professional fireworks displays will still be allowed under the new measure. State law requires a one-year waiting period before the ban can take effect, so it will be effective before July 4, 2022.