The Daily Mash-Up

Friday, October 09, 2015 This Week's Paper
Pierce County Economy Takes Time to Get Back on the Boil

Like a slow cooker turned up a notch, Pierce County’s economy will warm up at a slightly faster pace in 2013, predicts the annual Horizons Economic Forecast for the region. Jobs will continue to expand, though at a slower pace than in 2012, unemployment will be pared back, retail sales will rise modestly, home sales will brighten, and families will have a little more change in their pockets to spend.

University of Puget Sound economists Bruce Mann and Douglas Goodman delivered their 2013 Horizons Economic Forecast this morning before a breakfast crowd invited by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber . The event was held at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center.

This is the 25th year Professors Mann and Goodman have researched the report—and after a quarter of a century, they are passing the honor on to Pacific Lutheran University, as agreed upon with the Chamber.

“When Doug and I presented our first official forecast 25 years ago, we had no idea it would be so well received by the community,” Mann said. “So we continued with the project and enjoyed it. However 25 years is long enough for anyone to peer into a crystal ball. We want thank our sponsors, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, as well as University of Puget Sound and the community, for 25 years of fun and, we hope, some insights.”

Looking ahead in 2013, the economists said the rate of growth will still be sluggish, as it was in 2012. But Pierce County should benefit from some “big picture” changes at the national and local levels. The new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” will lead to an increase in federal health care funding, buoying Pierce County’s sizable health care industry.

Congress’ recent decision to retain most of the federal tax breaks that were threatened in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations will help maintain consumer and business confidence. Expenditure at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, to support the many returning servicemen and servicewomen, will be strong. Boeing too will continue to grow, creating new jobs and more orders for suppliers, and the arrival of the Grand Alliance consortium of shippers at Port Tacoma will add jobs and infrastructure. Some of the major predictions in the 2013 forecast include:

The Pierce County economy will grow by 2.8 percent in 2013, following 2.2 percent growth in 2012 and 3.6 percent growth in 2011.

How Congress resolves the remaining “fiscal cliff” federal deficit and debt issues will be critical for Pierce County. Almost one-third of local income comes from nonlabor sources, and much of this is from social security, welfare, veterans’ benefits, and similar. If such payments are cut, consumer spending will decline.

Employment will grow by 1.8 percent, or about 5,000 jobs, in 2013, following 2.1 percent growth in 2012. However more than 1,000 additional people will be actively looking for jobs, as young graduates enter the market and some discouraged jobseekers resume their search.

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