Market Report: January may set Whatcom's economic tone for 2012

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 31, 2011 

last-minute shop

Damani Johnson, of Bellingham, looks for stocking stuffers as he does some last-minute Christmas shopping at Cresswell Boggs on Saturday Dec. 24, 2011 in Bellingham. "It would be bad form without them," says Johnson.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

In the coming weeks we'll get a chance to see what the business community thinks of 2012.

It's most noticeable with retail stores, but December is the annual end-of-the year sprint for all businesses to improve the bottom line. Now that the sprint is over, January in Whatcom County is usually a time when plans are revealed on what's expected for the coming year in the business community.

Sometimes it's shown by business closures, particularly for retailers on the edge that held on through the holiday shopping season and understand the first quarter of any year is the quietest in terms of sales. Nationally, the shedding of retail stores began two days after Christmas when Sears Holdings Corporation announced it was closing up to 120 Sears and Kmart stores.

Other times it's shown by business announcements: With annual budgets finalized, January can also be a time when companies begin projects such as expansions or moves.

It'll be interesting to see what the tone will be for 2012. By most accounts, the end of 2011 appeared to finish strong locally with good retail sales, a dropping unemployment rate and a slowdown in foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Other significant business events that took place in December:

• David Syre, the Bellingham developer who created Bellis Fair mall and the Semiahmoo development in Blaine, has filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The filing is meant to give Syre financial breathing room as he faces an $11 million lawsuit from Polygon Financial 05 LLC.

• Anvil Corp. is constructing the 15,516-square-foot, two-story office building at 1701 W. Bakerview Road, near its headquarters. The building is an expansion for Anvil, an engineering firm that manages and designs a variety of large projects, particularly in the oil refining industry. The company plans to add employees, possibly about 25 in Bellingham.

• Construction is expected to begin soon at the Barkley District for its next phase of development, which includes a movie theater, trails, restaurants and retail.

• BP Cherry Point's ultra-low-sulfur unit installation project hit a snag last month when a 475-ton cylinder fell off a barge into the waters near the shore, but was later recovered.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q2 2011: $742.6 million

Q1 2011: $657.7 million

Q2 2010: $716 million

Quarterly change: up 12.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 3.7 percent

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

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

November 2011: 53

October 2011: 62

November 2010: 48

Monthly change: down 14.5 percent

Year-over-year change: up 10.4 percent

Five-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Five-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County auto sales

November 2011: 224

October 2011: 299

November 2010: 258

Monthly change: down 25.1 percent

Year-over-year change: down 13.2 percent

Five-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Five-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

November 2011: 176

October 2011: 177

November 2010: 144

Monthly change: down less than 1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 22.2 percent

Five-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Five-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

November 2011: $4.1 million

October 2011: $7 million

November 2010: $17.2 million

Monthly change: down 41.4 percent

Year-over-year change: down 76.1 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

November 2011: 61

October 2011: 66

November 2010: 67

Monthly change: down 7.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 9 percent

Five-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Five-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

November 2011: $208,000

October 2011: $235,000

November 2010: $243,500

Monthly change: down 11.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 14.6 percent

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

Five-year monthly low: $208,000, November 2011

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

November 2011: 214

October 2011: 271

November 2010: 215

Monthly change: down 21 percent

Year-over-year change: down less than 1 percent

Five-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Five-year monthly low: 170, December 2010

Bellingham airport traffic

November 2011: 40,541

October 2011: 43,943

November 2010: 32,798

Monthly change: down 7.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 23.6 percent.

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

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

Canadian dollar

End of December 2011: 98 cents

End of November 2011: 98 cents

End of December 2010: $1

Five-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Five-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

October 2011: 1,159,433

September 2011: 1,250,971

October 2010: 966,381

Monthly change: down 7.3 percent

Year-over-year change: up 20 percent

Five-year monthly high: 1,540,776 August 2011

Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

November 2011: $3.8 million

October 2011: $10.8 million

November 2010: $3.5 million

Monthly change: down 64.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8.6 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

October 2011: $1.4 million

September 2011: $1.9 million

October 2010: $1.9 million

Monthly change: down 26.3 percent

Year-over-year change: down 26.3 percent

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

Four-year monthly low: $200,000, January 2009

Whatcom County construction jobs

November 2011: 5,700

October 2011(revised): 5,900

November 2010: 5,700

Monthly change: down 3.4 percent

Year-over-year change: No change

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom November 2011: 7.5 percent

Whatcom October 2011 (revised): 7.5 percent

Whatcom November 2010: 8.2 percent

State November 2011 (not seasonably adjusted): 8.2 percent

Nation November 2011 (not seasonably adjusted): 8.3 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.

Market Report runs on the first Sunday of each month. Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.

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