Market Report: Uptick expected in Whatcom economy in second half of 2014


0627 Nexus PAD

Dan Tilton of Feller Heating and Air Conditioning works at the new Nexus office under construction in Birch Bay Square, Thursday morning, June 26, 2014.


With half of 2014 now in the books, much of the latest economic data indicates slow, steady improvement in Whatcom County.

Construction jobs, building permits, auto sales and the Canadian dollar have trended up, while bankruptcies, foreclosures and the unemployment rate have gone down. Not all of the data points to positive news for the local economy: Canadian border traffic and home sales are sluggish in the first half of the year, while Whatcom County business closures are up compared to recent years.

Heading into the second half of the year, overall economic activity in Whatcom County usually picks up: Along with farm harvests and increased tourism, retail sales generally pick up as back-to-school sales are followed by the holiday shopping season.

The second half of the year should also have several big businesses openings, with Safeway, Chipotle and Buffalo Wild Wings among those expected to open in Bellingham this fall.

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

-- A new destination spa may be the first step in significant change at Semiahmoo Spit. Earlier this week an application was submitted to Blaine to alter city plans to allow up to a 70,000-square-foot spa and wellness facility, along with a residential or hotel component that would have up to 125 units. The plans were submitted by BlueRidge Semiahmoo Point LLC, a Southern California real estate investment firm.

-- Joining the NEXUS traveler program could become quicker and more convenient when a new facility opens later this summer at Birch Bay Square. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Canada Border Services Agency are relocating a trusted traveler enrollment center into a 7,400-square-foot space at the retail center. It is currently at the Pacific Highway border crossing. ... Two local insurance companies have decided to join forces in order to offer more options for customers. S&V Insurance of Lynden has agreed to merge with Bellingham's Oltman Insurance, effective Tuesday, July 1. No immediate changes are planned for either office, said Darin DeYoung, who owns Oltman Insurance with Ann Medina and Ken Van Ry.

-- Bellingham experienced a 14.8 percent drop in home sales in the second quarter compared to the second quarter of 2013, according to a report from Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group. The report is based on data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which Johnson uses to focus on Whatcom County trends.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q4 2013: $907.9 million

Q3 2013: $915.3 million

Q4 2012: $891.5 million

Quarterly change: down 0.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.8 percent

Seven-year quarterly high: $915.3 million, third quarter 2013

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

May 2014: 48

April 2014: 52

May 2013: 38

Monthly change: down 7.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 26.3 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Eight-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

April 2014: 366

March 2014: 302

April 2013: 273

Monthly change: up 21.2 percent

Year-over-year change: up 34.1 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Eight-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

June 2014: 290

May 2014: 260

June 2013: 275

Monthly change: up 11.5 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5.4 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Eight-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

June 2014: $11.8 million

May 2014: $6.5 million

June 2013: $16.3 million

Monthly change: up 81.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 27.6 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

May 2014: 29

April 2014: 33

May 2013: 45

Monthly change: down 12.1 percent

Year-over-year change: down 35.6 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Eight-year monthly low: 8, March 2014

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

June 2014: $270,625

May 2014: $260,500

June 2013: $248,000

Monthly change: up 3.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 9.1 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

June 2014: 506

May 2014: 587

June 2013: 487

Monthly change: down 13.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 3.9 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Eight-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

April 2014: 46,882

March 2014: 60,543

April 2013: 52,307

Monthly change: down 22.6 percent

Year-over-year change: down 10.4 percent.

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

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

Canadian dollar

End of June 2014: 94 cents

End of May 2014: 92 cents

End of June 2013: 95 cents

Eight-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Eight-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

April 2014: 1,298,730

March 2014: 1,288,106

April 2013: 1,235,033

Monthly change: up less than 1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5.2 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 1,786,840, August 2013

Eight-year monthly low: 645,792, October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

June 2014: $15.9 million

May 2014: $28.7 million

June 2013: $16.4 million

Monthly change: down 44.6 percent

Year-over-year change: down 3 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

June 2014: $2.2 million

May 2014: $4.2 million

June 2014: $3.7 million

Monthly change: down 47.6 percent

Year-over-year change: down 40.5 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

May 2014: 6,000

April 2014 (revised): 6,000

May 2013: 5,500

Monthly change: no change

Year-over-year change: up 9.1 percent

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom May 2014: 6.4 percent

Whatcom April 2014 (revised): 5.7 percent

Whatcom May 2013: 7 percent

State May 2014 (seasonably adjusted): 6.1 percent

Nation May 2014 (seasonably adjusted): 6.3 percent.

Eight-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Eight-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; City of Ferndale; Washington State Employment Security Department.

Market Report runs each month.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or Read the Business Blog at or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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