Mixed economic news: Puget Sound metro region continues to draw new residents; state exports falling sharply

A couple of economic stories caught our attention today.

First, from the Puget Sound Regional Council we find more evidence of the Seattle metro area’s spectacular growth, which we noted yesterday in our report on traffic congestion. The PSRC reports,

The four-county Puget Sound region added 63,270 people in 2015. More than two-thirds of this growth (63%) was due to people moving here.

As the region added 54,300 wage and salary jobs in 2015, we imported nearly 40,000 people.

That’s impressive. The inmigration is nicely depicted in this PSRC chart.

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The slowdown in trade reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal (the second article that piqued our interest) may add to the always-present concern about the sustainability of the regional boom. 

Washington state exports are dropping in nearly every category other than Boeing (NYSE: BA) aircraft, reflecting the strong dollar and weakening economies around the world.

“Almost everything seems to be getting hammered in January, a lot of downward double digits,” said Robert Hamilton, Gov. Jay Inslee‘s trade adviser…

For all of 2015, exports dropped 17 percent to $34.8 billion, also excluding Boeing.

The PSBJ points out that global weaknesses are depressing exports.

The drooping export numbers are driven by economic weakness in Washington’s five largest export destinations: China, Canada, Japan, Mexico and Korea, in that order.

Nationally, the decline in trade is contributing to weak growth in manufacturing, as reported by the National Association of Manufacturers.

Manufacturing production grew 0.2 percent in February, extending the 0.5 percent gain seen in January. As such, output in the sector has begun 2016 on a somewhat stronger note than it ended 2015. To be clear, manufacturing activity remains weaker than we would prefer, particularly given the difficulties in growing export demand and with soft commodity prices.

As we wrote in our foundation report,

Washington’s economy is highly dependent on global trade. The state ranks second in the nation in exports per capita. According to the Washington Council on International Trade, 40 percent of the jobs in the state are related to trade in some way. Given its many trade advantages, the state is well-positioned to continue to be a leader in international trade for years to come.

To maintain that leadership role, the state also needs strong trading partners and national policy that supports global trade. It’s important to remember, even as the metro area prospers, that public policies that promote prosperity and economic growth cannot be taken for granted.