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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

June 8, 2011 at 9:30 AM

State GDP data make clear Washington still digging out of recession

Washington’s gross domestic product grew a mere 1.6 percent in 2010 as the state battled to emerge from the Great Recession, according to new data from the U.S. Commerce Department. That was considerably lower than the national increase of 2.6 percent and among the lowest in the far west (Nevada’s contracted by 0.7 percent). Finance, non-durable goods manufacturing, utilities and construction all contracted here.

The numbers on economic activity seem at odds with some anecdotal evidence of Washington’s recovery, such as Boeing’s strength, Amazon.com’s hiring and a recovery in certain parts of commercial real estate. But Washington has continued to struggle with weak revenues, severe government budget cuts and relatively high unemployment. No wonder, then, that the state turned in such weak monthly job-growth numbers. Still, Oregon, with a much worse unemployment problem, turned in growth of 3.4 percent powered by durable goods manufacturing.

North Dakota, taking advantage of shale oil development and no overbuilding from the housing boom, saw its state GDP grow 7.1 percent (and that growth is exaggerated by coming from a small base). New York, with Wall Street booming, grew 5.1 percent.

In 2010, Washington had a state GDP worth $340.5 billion, compared with $174.2 billion in Oregon and $55.4 billion in Idaho. Another telling comparison is with Arizona, which is roughly the same population as Washington but turned in state GDP of $253.6 billion and 2010 GDP growth of 0.7 percent.

To close with a little context: GDP growth alone doesn’t make for a healthy economy, and isn’t along very illuminating in today’s world. Nevada was the fastest-growing state through most of the 2000s. Now it’s in the dustbin. A diverse, high-value economy will provide the better outcomes over time, and that’s what Washington enjoys.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Sure things: death, taxes

Unless you are Amazon

“Free Lunch” on Kindle

Comments | More in State fiscal conditions

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