Market Report: Skagit bridge collapse had a major impact on Whatcom economy


Skagit Bridge collapse

Herald reader Brad Johnson sent this photo of the traffic snarl through the Burlington-Mount Vernon area on Friday afternoon, May 24, 2013, following the collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River the night before.


When it comes to the local economy, the biggest impact in May 2013 happened just south of Whatcom County.

The collapse of the Skagit River bridge on May 23 has had everyone considering their transportation plans, including companies with deliveries and regular commuters, given the traffic delays through the detours. The Washington Department of Transportation is planning to reopen the bridge later in June by installing a temporary structure in the collapsed portion of the bridge.

Traffic flow in the area could return to normal with the temporary fix, which would come at a busy time of year, from an economic standpoint. Along with farm harvests and tourism, this is also the peak construction season and plenty of supplies will be coming and going on Interstate 5.

As for the coming weeks, it'll be an interesting time of year in terms of economic data. The workforce will fluctuate as schools close for the summer and agriculture and construction companies ramp up.

This is also the peak time for real estate, as families move during the summer months before the next school session. It's already been a busy start: In May, 279 condos and homes were sold by Whatcom County real estate agents, the highest monthly total since September 2007.

Significant local business events that took place in May and early June:

• Discount grocer WinCo Foods is aiming for a mid-August opening of a major store in Bellingham, adding another option in an already competitive local market. The company is currently remodeling the former Joe's Sporting Goods building at 300 E. Bellis Fair Parkway. WinCo plans on employing about 200 people at the Bellingham store, with around 180 positions being filled by local job-seekers, said Michael Read, a spokesman for the company.

• The local strawberry harvest is underway, which should continue for the next couple weeks.

• A new ownership group is moving forward with plans to redevelop Lynden's historic Delft Square building into a 25-room inn with 10,000 square feet of retail space. Teri and Matt Treat recently purchased ownership shares of the building and have joined Jeff and Debra McClure to form ForeFront Ventures, LLC to begin redesigning the downtown building at 444 Front St. Delft Square has been without a tenant since it was nearly destroyed by a fire in June 2008.

Market Report runs each month.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q4 2012: $891.5 million

Q3 2012: $860.9 million

Q4 2011: $828.1 million

Quarterly change: up 3.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 7.7 percent

Six-year quarterly high: $891.5 million, fourth quarter, 2007

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

April 2013: 67

March 2013: 59

April 2012: 50

Monthly change: up 13.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 34 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Seven-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

April 2013: 273

March 2013: 259

April 2012: 301

Monthly change: up 5.4 percent

Year-over-year change: down 9.3 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Seven-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

May 2013: 279

April 2013: 212

May 2012: 201

Monthly change: up 31.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 38.8 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

April 2013: $11.9 million

March 2013: $3.7 million

April 2012: $20.2 million

Monthly change: up 222 percent

Year-over-year change: down 41 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

April 2013: 25

March 2013: 86

April 2012: 59

Monthly change: down 70.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 57.6 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Seven-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

May 2013: $250,000

April 2013: $248,250

May 2012: $235,000

Monthly change: up 0.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 6.4 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

May 2013: 552

April 2013: 447

May 2012: 514

Monthly change: up 23.5 percent

Year-over-year change: up 7.4 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

April 2013: 52,307

March 2013: 61,402

April 2012: 50,165

Monthly change: down 14.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 4.3 percent.

Seven-year monthly high: 61,402, March 2013

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

Canadian dollar

End of May 2013: 96 cents

End of April 2013: 99 cents

End of May 2012: 96 cents

Seven-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Seven-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

March 2013: 1,379,940

February 2013: 1,121,940

January 2013: 1,109,276

March 2012: 1,271,620

Monthly change: up 23 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5 percent

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

Seven-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

May 2013: $9.6 million

April 2013: $28 million

May 2012: $13.3 million

Monthly change: down 65.7 percent

Year-over-year change: down 27.8 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

April 2013: $10 million

March 2013: $8 million

April 2012: $4.9 million

Monthly change: down 24 percent

Year-over-year change: up 850 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

April 2013: 5,900

March 2013: 6,000

April 2012: 6,600

Monthly change: down 1.7 percent

Year-over-year change: down 10.6 percent

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

Seven-year monthly low: 4,900, January 2013

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom April 2013: 6.9 percent

Whatcom March 2013 (revised): 7.7 percent

Whatcom April 2012: 7.2 percent

State April 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 7.0 percent

Nation April 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 7.5 percent.

Seven-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Seven-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 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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