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October 6, 2014 at 6:34 AM

Washington’s economy makes gains while household incomes were better off in 1999

Talking about the “good old days” often seems like a waste of time to me, but when looking at household incomes, it turns out the days past were actually better.

Fifteen years ago, households in Washington made more money: the state’s median household income dropped to $58,977 in 2013, an 8 percent decrease compared with $64,009 in 1999 (adjusted for inflation), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

During the same period, Washington’s per capita gross domestic product, which measures economic output based on population, rose to $54,654 per person in 2013 from $50,472 in 1999, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That represents an 8.3 percent increase with various fluctuations over the years.

The top chart shows how median household income for Washington residents has fluctuated since peaking in 1999.  The bottom chart shows how the rate changes year to year. SOURCE: WASHINGTON BUSINESS ALLIANCE.

The top chart shows how median household income for Washington residents has fluctuated since peaking in 1999. The bottom chart shows how the rate changes year to year. SOURCE: WASHINGTON BUSINESS ALLIANCE.

The point is that the state economy is doing better now than in 1999, but pocketbooks are not.

Still, there is some good news, said Hans Stroo, government affairs associate for the Washington Business Alliance. The trend of household incomes going down reversed in 2012 and, for the past couple of years, started moving in the right direction: up.

“We have not recovered to previous peaks for household income,” Stroo said. “The median Washington household is still earning significantly less than before the recession.”

Since arriving in Seattle last month, I’ve heard plenty of people bemoan how Seattle is changing and how Amazon and new apartment buildings are ruining the city.

Cities should celebrate job growth and new housing because that shows that the city is attracting economic growth and investment. Seattle’s not the only bright spot. My hometown region of the Tri-Cities has seen some of the best increases in median household income in the state.

When I decided to move here this past summer, I was excited to join a dynamic, growing city in my home state. But, I can see how those changes don’t energize other people as much and why some people even feel resentful.

The economy is improving, but people feel left out – and understandably so. In 1999, I finished high school and danced to Prince’s song, “1999” at many parties and celebrations.

The lyrics of that song, “Two thousand zero zero party over” were spot on for the millions of people who were working full-time jobs and still are now – the difference is the money was probably better back then.

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Comments | Topics: economy, median household income, washington

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