Some positive signs for Whatcom County's economy

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 2, 2011 

With the summer of 2011 coming to a close, some aspects of the Whatcom County economic picked up.

Residential real estate had a surprising rebound in August, posting the highest number of home and condominium sales in nearly two years. With the BP Cherry Point and Meridian High School construction projects getting under way, Whatcom County permit totals have been robust the past two months.

Also, the number of people employed in manufacturing is the highest since December 2008, while construction locally is at the highest monthly total since November 2009. And the pace of foreclosure filings has slowed in recent months.

It's not all robust for the local economy, however: New car sales were sluggish in August, and the unemployment rate rose in the same period. The Canadian dollar fell below parity compared to the U.S. dollar; further weakening of the loonie could impact Whatcom County retailers.

Heading into the fourth quarter, job growth is expected to be the key locally. Despite the rising Whatcom County unemployment rate, some job growth did take place in August.

Other significant business events that took place in September: After operating at capacity in recent years, Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro plans to expand. The brewery recently signed a lease for about 4,000 square feet of adjacent space in the building at Railroad Avenue and Maple Street. ... Homestead Northwest sold its Birch Bay Water Slides at 4874 Birch Bay-Lynden Road. The buyer is listed as Jun Yu Development I LLC of Richmond, B.C. ... The Fraser River pink salmon run kept local fishermen and fish processors busy in August and September. At Bellingham Cold Storage, more than 1,000 people were working on the salmon operation at its peak last month, getting the fish unloaded, cleaned and frozen, said Doug Thomas, CEO of the company. ... It has been a busy time for café and restaurant openings, particularly in the downtown Bellingham area. In the past month, nine new restaurants, including five on Western Washington University's campus, opened. ... The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries proposed its lowest workers' compensation rate increase in five years, asking for a 2.5 percent average increase. ... Zodiac Aerospace finalized its acquisition of Bellingham-based Heath Tecna Inc. Heath Tecna designs, manufactures and certifies complex cabin interiors for commercial airlines.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q1 2011: $657.7 million

Q4 2010: $789.1 million

Q1 2010: $634.7 million

Quarterly change: down 16.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 3.6 percent

Five-year quarterly high: $873.4 million, fourth quarter, 2007

Five-year quarterly low: $624.4 million, first quarter 2009

Whatcom County bankruptcies

August 2011: 61

July 2011: 60

August 2010: 65

Monthly change: up 1.6 percent

Year-over-year change: down 6.2 percent

Five-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Five-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County auto sales

August 2011: 198

July 2011: 243

August 2010: 213

Monthly change: down 18.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 7 percent

Five-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Five-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

August 2011: 250

July 2011: 184

August 2010: 189

Monthly change: up 35.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 32.3 percent

Five-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Five-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

August 2011: $25.2 million

July 2011: $65.3 million

August 2010: $11.2 million

Monthly change: down 61.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 125 percent

Three-year monthly high: $65.3 million, July 2011

Three-year monthly low: $3.1 million, January 2010

Whatcom County Foreclosures

August 2011: 49

July 2011: 70

August 2010: 125

Monthly change: down 30 percent

Year-over-year change: down 60.8 percent

Five-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Five-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

August 2011: $234,750

July 2011: $246,250

August 2010: $251,490

Monthly change: down 4.7 percent

Year-over-year change: down 6.7 percent

Five-year monthly high: $280,450, May 2007

Five-year monthly low: $224,900, March 2009

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

August 2011: 414

July 2011: 419

August 2010: 394

Monthly change: down 1.2 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5.1 percent

Five-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Five-year monthly low: 170, December 2010

Bellingham airport traffic

August 2011: 48,204

July 2011: 51,421

August 2010: 40,609

Monthly change: down 6.3 percent

Year-over-year change: up 18.7 percent.

Five-year monthly high: 51,421, July 2011

Five-year monthly low: 12,597, September 2010

Canadian dollar

End of September 2011: 98 cents

End of August 2011: $1.01

End of September 2010: 97 cents

Five-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Five-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

February 2011: 852,766

January 2011: 887,969

February 2010: 843,963

Monthly change: down 4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1 percent

Five-year monthly high: 1,301,537 July 2010

Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

August 2011: $9.5 million

July 2011: $11.7 million

August 2010: $6.8 million

Monthly change: down 18.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 39.7 percent

Five-year monthly high: $47.3 million, December 2009

Five-year monthly low: $1.1 million, November 2008

Ferndale building permit values

August 2011: $1.6 million

July 2011: $2.9 million

August 2010: $2.1 million

Monthly change: down 81.3 percent

Year-over-year change: down 23.8

Four-year monthly high: $12.9 million, July 2007

Four-year monthly low: $0.2 million, January 2009

Whatcom County construction jobs

August 2011: 6,100

July 2011(revised): 6,000

August 2010: 5,900

Monthly change: up 1.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 3.4 percent

Five-year monthly high: 8,600, September 2006

Five-year monthly low: 5,000, December 2010

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom August 2011: 8.6 percent

Whatcom July 2011 (revised): 8.2 percent

Whatcom August 2010: 8.6 percent

State August 2011 (not seasonably adjusted): 8.9 percent

Nation August 2011 (not seasonably adjusted): 9.1 percent.

Five-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Five-year monthly low: 3.7 percent, October 2007

Sources: Washington State Department of Revenue; U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Washington; Cross-Sell; Washington State Department of Licensing; Northwest Multiple Listing Service; Whatcom County Planning and Development Services; Bank of Canada; Port of Bellingham; RealtyTrac; Center For Economics and Business Research, Western Washington University; City of Bellingham; Washington State Employment Security Department.

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2269.

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