Market Report: First part of 2012 showing continued economic improvement

Last month was a good example of how Whatcom County events can involve world markets.

Two fires - One at the BP Cherry Point refinery and the other at the Darigold facility in Lynden - immediately had an impact on the oil and milk products. The BP fire had an impact on gas prices, which on average rose 44 cents a gallon in Bellingham between the end of January and the end of February.

The milk plant, located at 8424 Depot Road, is operating at 60 percent of capacity after the fire damaged one of two dryers that turn milk into powder, spokeswoman Michelle Carter said. The majority of that powder is then exported, but it shouldn't cause too many problems on the global market as the company spreads the work over to other Darigold facilities in the state.

From an economic data standpoint, Whatcom County's economy appears to continue its slow, steady improvement. Local real estate agents sold more homes and condominiums in January 2012 than the previous four years for that month. The Canadian dollar remained near parity, which should continue to provide a boost to local retail sales.

Other significant business events that took place in February:

All American Marine launched its latest boat, 134-foot survey catamaran called Sea Scout, out on Bellingham Bay on Thursday, Feb. 23. The new boat was constructed for C&C Technologies, an international surveying and mapping company based in Louisiana. C&C will use the ship in the Gulf of Mexico and is capable of handling variety of tasks, including mapping, seismic and soil research.

Local accounting firm Larson Gross signed a lease to occupy 14,000 square feet of space on the fourth floor of the Dorothy Haggen Building in the Barkley District.

Local residents will have the opportunity to fly east out of the Bellingham International Airport, at least for the summer. Frontier Airlines announced on Thursday, Feb. 9 that it will begin offering non-stop flights from Bellingham to Frontier's hub in Denver. The daily flights will start on Thursday, May 24 and are scheduled through Sunday, Sept. 16. This seasonal service is a way for the airline to test the local market to see if it's a viable route for the company.

Whatcom's Housing Affordability Index hit 153.2 in the fourth quarter of 2011, the highest level since the index started in 1994, according to data from the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. The state average was 172.6, also a record high in the 18-year history of the index. The affordability index measures the ability of a typical family to make payments on a median price home.


Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q3 2011: $797.7 million

Q2 2011: $742.6 million

Q3 2010: $766.4 million

Quarterly change: up 7.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 4.1 percent

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

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

January 2012: 63

December 2011: 54

January 2011: 55

Monthly change: up 16.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 14.5 percent

Six-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Six-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

January 2012: 274

December 2011: 314

January 2011: 299

Monthly change: down 12.7 percent

Year-over-year change: down 8.4 percent

Six-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Six-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

January 2012: 118

December 2011: 170

January 2011: 110

Monthly change: down 30.6

Year-over-year change: up 7.3 percent

Six-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Six-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

January 2012: $2.6 million

December 2011: $2.9 million

January 2011: $3.5 million

Monthly change: down 10.3 percent

Year-over-year change: down 25.7 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

January 2012: 27

December 2011: 24

January 2011: 89

Monthly change: up 12.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 69.6 percent

Six-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Six-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

January 2012: $220,500

December 2011: $219,000

January 2011: $232,500

Monthly change: up less than 1 percent

Year-over-year change: down 5.2 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

January 2012: 241

December 2011: 131

January 2011: 287

Monthly change: up 84 percent

Year-over-year change: down 16 percent

Six-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Six-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

January 2012: 38,034

December 2011: 42,256

January 2011: 35,034

Monthly change: down 10 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8.6 percent.

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

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

Canadian dollar

End of February 2012: $1.00

End of January 2012: $1.00

End of February 2011: $1.03

Six-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Six-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

December 2011: 1,228,747

November 2011: 1,089,223

December 2010: 1,025,143

Monthly change: up 12.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 19.9 percent

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

Six-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

December 2011: $9.5 million

November 2011: $3.8 million

December 2010: $3.4 million

Monthly change: up 150 percent

Year-over-year change: up 179 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

January 2012: $0.58 million

December 2011: $2.6 million

January 2011: $2.4 million

Monthly change: down 77.7 percent

Year-over-year change: down 75.8 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

December 2011: 5,400

November 2011(revised): 5,600

December 2010: 5,500

Monthly change: down 3.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 1.8

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom December 2011: 8.1 percent

Whatcom November 2011 (revised): 7.3 percent

Whatcom December 2010: 8.2 percent

State December 2011 (seasonably adjusted): 8.5 percent

Nation December 2011 (seasonably adjusted): 8.5 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.