County’s economic outlook improves, still inconsistent
Clark County’s economic indicators appear to be on the rise, tracking similar state and national trends, according to the county’s second-quarter report.
The report is filled with ups and downs, as one might expect, as the economy continues to rebound with the county’s budget lagging a bit farther behind.
Unemployment in Clark County has dropped to 6.4 percent. By comparison, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is 6.1 percent, and both are below the Federal Reserve’s target of 6.5 percent. Retail sales between June, 30 2013 and June 30 2014 increased by 9.2 percent, while taxable retail sales in unincorporated areas jumped 8.7 percent. Median home sales have seen a jump as well, from $235,400 in the first quarter of 2014 to $244,000 in the second quarter of 2014.
Keep in mind, the county is tracking along a parallel path with other counties in Washington, so it’s not as if Clark County is doing well independent of other jurisdictions. “Sales tax receipts for most Washington counties have improved,” the report states.
The county also employs fewer people now than it has in the past, a sign for some that the county is doing more with less. In the current budget, there are 1,659 positions, a 16-person decrease from 2011-2012. The good news for the county’s economic growth hasn’t necessarily translated to county departments, however. Development service permits are still low. For the first time in two years, permit revenue from single-family housing did not cover the full cost of operations, according to a county presentation.
REET receipts have also slowed and are now behind budget for the biennium. And then there’s the facilities budget, which continues to operate at a deficit. The fund is currently $104,000 in the red.
The county concludes that the economic indicators are inconsistent, with increases to retail tax revenue driven primarily by construction, a historically volatile industry. According to the report, five economic trends have improved, four have gotten worse and 20 have stayed the same.