Market Report: With more daylight hours, expect increase in economic activity



Clark's Berry Farm's Francisco Perez Perez nails in hooks to hang wire to hold raspberry canes up in a new raspberry field under construction west of Lynden, on the Birch Bay-Lynden Road in this May 7, 2012 photo.


Now that Daylight Savings Time is back, economic activity should start picking up throughout Whatcom County.

With daylight hours increasing and the weather improving, it's time to ramp up a few key local industries: agriculture, construction, real estate and tourism.

Berry farm activity in Whatcom County doesn't peak until the summer months, but as the weather improves and the plants come out of the dormant state, the work begins on another season. While some construction, particularly interior improvements, takes place throughout the year, this is generally the kickoff for new construction, something that traditionally shows up in local employment numbers.

Improved weather is also a factor in real estate, as activity picks up for new listings and buyers. The coming weeks are also time for increased outdoor recreation activities, which will draw people from around the region.

Other significant economic events that took place in February:

• The average price for a gallon of gas in Bellingham continues to close in on $4 a gallon, according to AAA Washington. AAA's daily fuel gauge report estimates the average price for a gallon of gas in Bellingham was $3.96 on Friday, March 8. That's up 8 cents from a week before and 29 cents compared to a month ago. It is 14 cents lower than a year ago, when the BP Cherry Point fire led to a spike in prices across the West Coast.

• Overall Whatcom County home values have begun to appreciate for the first time in nearly five years, according to a new federal report. The Federal Housing Finance Agency estimates that local home values rose 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to a year earlier. It's the first time since the second quarter of 2008 that Whatcom County posted a year-over-year increase in home values.

• Grocery store company WinCo has received permit approval from the city to remodel the former Joe's Sporting Goods building on 300 E. Bellis Fair Parkway. The permit was issued on Thursday, Jan. 31 and calls for a $7 million remodel of the building. The remodel will also create two additional tenant spaces, according to the permit.

• CJ's Beach House at 7878 Birch Bay Drive opened on Thursday, Feb. 7, drawing about 250 customers, said Jack Niemann, who owns it with his wife, Christina. On Sunday, Feb. 10, about 500 customers visited the restaurant.

• A sale is pending, once again, for the Semiahmoo Hotel and two nearby golf courses.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q3 2012: $860.9 million

Q2 2012: $792.1 million

Q3 2011: $797.7 million

Quarterly change: up 8.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 7.9 percent

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

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

January 2013: 36

December 2012: 43

January 2012: 63

Monthly change: down 16.3 percent

Year-over-year change: down 42.9 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Seven-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County auto sales

December 2012: 276

November 2012: 265

December 2011: 314

Monthly change: up 4.2 percent

Year-over-year change: down 12.1 percent

Six-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Six-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

February 2013: 143

January 2013: 142

February 2012: 128

Monthly change: up less than 1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 11.7 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

February 2013: $7.3 million

January 2013: $2.9 million

February 2012: $3 million

Monthly change: up 152 percent

Year-over-year change: up 143 percent

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

Six-year monthly low: $2.6 million, January 2012

Whatcom County foreclosures

January 2013: 59

December 2012: 79

January 2012: 27

Monthly change: down 25.3 percent

Year-over-year change: up 119 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Seven-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

February 2013: $233,500

January 2013: $235,000

February 2012: $218,750

Monthly change: down less than 1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 6.7 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

February 2013: 355

January 2013: 288

February 2012: 265

Monthly change: up 23.3 percent

Year-over-year change: up 34percent

Seven-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

January 2013: 41,805

December 2012: 48,486

January 2012: 38,034

Monthly change: down 13.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 9.9 percent.

Seven-year monthly high: 55,407, July 2012

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

Canadian dollar

End of February 2013: 97 cents

End of January 2013: $1

End of February 2012: $1

Seven-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Seven-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

December 2012: 1,290,481

November 2012: 1,175,351

December 2011: 1,228,747

Monthly change: up 9.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5 percent

Six-year monthly high: 1,676,071 August 2012

Six-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

January 2013: $17.9 million

December 2012: $4.6 million

January 2012: $5 million

Monthly change: up 289 percent

Year-over-year change: up 258 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

January 2013: $2.5 million

December 2012: $2.5 million

January 2012: $0.6 million

Monthly change: no change

Year-over-year change: up 317 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

December 2012: 6,200

November 2012: 6,300

December 2011: 5,400

Monthly change: down 1.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 10.5 percent

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom December 2012: 6.9 percent

Whatcom November 2012: 6.5 percent

Whatcom December 2011: 7.9 percent

State December 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 7.6 percent

Nation December 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 7.8 percent.

Six-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Six-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 each month.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or Read his business blog at or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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