Washington tops nation in GDP growth and Amazon gets a big share of the credit

Washington led the nation in GDP growth from 2016 to 2017, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Real GDP grew in 47 states and the District of Columbia in 2017. The percent change in real GDP ranged from 4.4 percent in Washington to -0.2 percent in Louisiana.

…Retail trade and information services were the leading contributors to the increase in real GDP in Washington, the fastest growing state

Governing magazine reports,

Washington state’s real GDP jumped 4.4 percent last year, by far the largest increase of any state.

Retail trade isn’t a top source of economic growth in most places. But in Washington, it was a major factor last year due to the continued expansion of e-commerce. Steve Lerch, chief economist with the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, singled out Amazon’s rapid growth.

Joel Kotkin writes in Forbes that Seattle, home to Amazon, continues to enjoy enviable status as an employment boomtown. 

Among America’s largest metropolitan areas, the economic leaders come in two flavors: Southern-fried and West Coast organic. The first group flourishes across a broad range of industries, fed by strong domestic in-migration and a friendly business climate. The other is driven largely by technology and high-end business services clustered around expensive but highly desirable urban areas.

However, the trend lines certainly favor the former approach, which is epitomized by America’s Best City For Jobs in the 2018 edition of our annual ranking.

…in ninth place is Seattle, where the information sector and professional business services continue to grow at a healthy pace, although somewhat slower. To be sure, Seattle’s jobs picture, like that of its Bay Area counterparts, remains the envy of almost every region. The biggest problem looming for these areas is high costs, which in the Bay Area has slowed population growth and accelerated out-migration. Over time there is concern that Seattle, too, may be in the process of pricing out potential new residents, as well as less well to do longtime ones.

Housing affordability is a big metro-area concern in the Puget Sound region, with problems complicated by Seattle zoning policies. (Spokane, however, is still relatively affordable and attracting residents priced out of Seattle and other Pacific coast metros.) But a recent survey confirms perceptions of the high overall cost of loving in the metro area.

t’s not just housing that’s driving the high cost of living in Seattle. Everything is expensive here.

That point is hammered home in the latest release of the Cost of Living Index. Seattle hit a record-high score of 152.8 for the third quarter of 2017, which means that it costs 52.8 percent more to live here than the average for the 267 places included in the survey.

With that score, Seattle ranks as the sixth most expensive place in the U.S. to live, also a record for the city. Seattle first appeared in the top 10 in 2016, and has now spent three consecutive quarters on that list.

Seattle Times columnist Gene Balk writes,

The Cost of Living Index, which has produced these city-to-city cost comparisons since 1968, collects data on prices for more than 60 goods and services. These are grouped into six major categories: housing, health care, transportation, utilities, grocery items and miscellaneous goods and services.

And here’s the kicker: Of those six categories, housing costs is where Seattle ranks the lowest.

Residents notice, writes Seattle Times business reporter Mike Rosenberg.

The sky-high cost of living has overtaken traffic as the most-hated part of living in the Puget Sound region, as local home prices continue to set records in King and Snohomish counties.

A new poll commissioned by the Puget Sound Regional Council asked people across the region what they like least about living here.

The last time the regional planning group asked this question, in 2003, more than half the people answered traffic and the lack of transportation options. Traffic jams were also the top concern in the survey before that, in 1993.

Now, 29 percent of people regionwide said the cost of living was the worst problem — including 35 percent in pricey King and Snohomish counties.

Rising costs may threaten the region’s attractiveness to some newcomers, as Kotkin points out. A bigger concern, however, might be tax and regulatory policies that eliminate the job opportunities for current and prospective Washingtonians.