State revenue department reports retail sales for Q1 2018 were up 10.3 percent; economic outlook stays strong

More good economic news this August 9 press release from the Washington State Department of Revenue:

A bump in construction and lawn and garden supplies and equipment sales helped boost the state’s taxable retail sales in first quarter of 2018. The sales increased by 10.3 percent over the same period in 2017, reaching $37.6 billion.

Retail trade, a subset of all taxable retail sales in the state, also increased by 8.6 percent to a total of $15.8 billion…

Some highlights of first quarter 2018 (January – March) taxable retail sales and retail trade sales include:

  • Construction rose 11.1 percent to $7.4 billion
  • Taxable retail sales reported by new and used auto dealers increased 2.2 percent to $3.3 billion
  • Drug and health store sales jumped 9.1 percent to $733 million
  • Lawn and garden supplies and equipment rose by 13.7 percent to $186 million

See first-quarter 2018 taxable retail sales and retail trade sales by industry.

Of the top 10 most populated counties in the state, Kitsap and Skagit counties enjoyed the largest overall taxable retail sales percentage increase. Spokane Valley and Vancouver saw the largest increase of the most populated cities.

The Spokesman-Review reports on the robust sales in the Spokane area.

Out of the 10 most populous cities in Washington, Spokane Valley ranked second in the state for the largest jump of taxable retail sales. With $567 million in reported sales, the city experienced a more-than 11 percent increase, trailing just behind Vancouver.

Retail sales growth in Spokane Valley during the first quarter of 2018 was spurred by auto sales totaling more than $94 million, followed by more than $68 million in general merchandise store sales, according to the Washington State Department of Revenue…

The city of Spokane reported $1.4 billion in taxable retail sales during the first quarter of 2018, which is an 8 percent increase over sales last year. Spokane County reported $2.3 billion in sales, a 10 percent jump over 2017.

The Lens also takes a deeper look at the economic outlook we have previously discussed. Reporter TJ Martinell writes,

The latest update from the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) reports yet another surge of unanticipated revenue, much of that thanks to a combination of Seattle metro’s real estate market and increasing gas prices. Also worthy of note is the council’s current attitude of cautious optimism for Washington’s’ economy despite trade war uncertainty and a cooling regional housing market – though that could change by the council’s next meeting in September…

The trade concerns will be reflected in September, he writes.

In an email, Lerch wrote that they plan to incorporate into the upcoming forecast the 25 percent tariff placed on U.S goods by China, as well as U.S. tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese imports set to take effect Aug. 23. Lerch added that although there is talk of even more U.S. tariffs, “we will not incorporate these in our baseline forecast if they remain at the discussion stage, although they may be part of a pessimistic forecast scenario (we always have a baseline, optimistic and pessimistic forecast).”

“Given stronger U.S. economic growth and higher interest rates relative to most of our trading partners, this forecast will assume a stronger U.S. dollar than in June, which will tend to be a negative for U.S. exports,” he wrote. “It is possible we could gain some additional information beyond what I mentioned above but this is where we are for now.

“We’re just assuming there’s not going to be a major trade disruption,” ERFC Senior Economist Eric Swenson said, who has worked on the council since 2001. “If the consensus was ‘there is going to be a big trade war,’ then we’d see a reflective move of the stock market. Obviously, in terms of (state) growth the rate can’t keep going on forever, but (we) view the Washington economy as doing much better than the national economy.”

So far, so good.