Whatcom County's gross domestic product grew 4.2 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year, well above the national average increase of 2.5 percent.
The data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis puts Whatcom's GDP at about $9.89 billion, ranking it 187th highest among 381 metro areas.
Between 2011 and 2012, Whatcom County experienced the strongest growth in nondurable goods manufacturing, which includes oil refining and food processing. This area also experienced strong growth in financial activities and durable goods manufacturing (products that don't wear out quickly), according to the data.
Whatcom County experienced GDP declines in natural resources/mining and information, a category that includes computer software.
Manufacturing has been a bright spot locally as well as across the U.S., said Hart Hodges, director of Western Washington University's Center for Economics and Business Research. While GDP growth is a good sign, he is concerned about job growth in this area.
"Whatcom County actually had decent job growth from 2001 to 2007. However, we've been more stagnant than the U.S. and much more stagnant than Seattle since 2009/2010," Hodges said in an email.
While overall job growth is stagnant, local manufacturing employment has steadily increased in recent years. In July 2013 an estimated 9,600 people were employed locally in manufacturing, an increase of 2,100 people since March 2010 and the highest monthly total in at least seven years.
The Seattle metro area's GDP, which includes Bellevue and Tacoma, rose 4.6 percent in the past year. Much of the growth was in the information sector, along with durable goods manufacturing. Seattle's GDP is estimated to be $258.8 billion, ranking it 12th highest among 381 U.S. metro areas.
Durable goods manufacturing led GDP growth in many metro areas last year, according to the federal data. This was especially true in the Great Lakes region.