Up, Down, Sideways – It’s Anyone’s Guess: Seattle Market Review, August 2012

Where is Seattle's economy heading?

While Seattle continues to chalk up some impressive rankings and revenue successes, the bottom line is that the recovery, if that is what you want to call it, has all but flat-lined with minimal growth and limited confidence across the nation. Recent news articles highlighting weak real income, scarce jobs, inventories outpacing sales and a looming fiscal cliff, don’t bode well for the coming months and year. It all amounts to a lot of waiting, thinking and talking about something that likely is here to stay for some time to come, and media companies, some of which are basking in the infusion of political and Olympics dollars, need to brace for the effects of the softer underlying ad environment, the realities of which will come to a head in January.

Can Seattle Buck the National Morose?

There was a glimmer of hope that Seattle, notoriously late to recession/depressions, appeared to be on track to recover quicker than the rest of the nation this time, thanks to a strong knowledge-based and entrepreneurial workforce. A bright spot! But then today’s news of local job losses and a slowing economy to match that of the rest of the nation took the air out of already low tires. Thus, the “anybody’s guess” headline that started off this installment.

Seattle ranks 9th for private sector paySeattle’s strong technology sector, which continues to pay well, helps Seattle rank #9 for private-sector pay. That means there’s a bit more discretionary cash in the market, which contributes handily to Seattle’s #5 ranking for dining out at restaurants. You also might feel optimistic that Washington is ranked #8 for job gains and 10th for retail job growth in separate studies. Still our low-wage earners and non-wage unemployed continue to struggle along with those previously well-paid and now in the job market, or accepting pay cuts to take available jobs.

In spite of this doom and gloom, retailers seem to be anticipating better times, if not growth, and openings are in the works or completed for a number of stores. It’s a healthy list, and you’ll find it under Retail Market news in the report.

Tourism  and Trade Remain Bright Spots

Starting with a major slump in 2009, you’d never know Seattle is one of the top 25 tourism markets in the country. Tourism is indeed big business here and this fabulous summer has done nothing to discourage that! Most of the sector’s measures are back to pre-recession levels and present a favorable outlook. In yet another ranking, Seattle rates 6th for global trade, also a very important sector for this market. Also on the rise: Venture capital investment.

While two months don’t make a trend, Seattle home prices were up 2.6%; the second monthly rise in a row. King County home prices were up 7% YOY. It appears the construction and real estate sector finally is rebounding, providing some guarded optimism. Still, it is expected that little will change and very little growth will occur until businesses are more certain about the future, which means after the November election. And that, dear media planners and buyers, means that hugely retracted ad spending is just around the corner.

Agree, disagree – is it anybody’s guess? What is yours? We’d love to hear from those of you entrenched in the Seattle media foxholes!

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Get the latest Seattle market and economic news in the August 2012 Seattle Market Review. Or bet­ter yet, sign up for a free sub­scrip­tion by email­ing SMR’s mas­ter cura­tor, Steve Fuller at sfuller@seattletimes.com.

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Seat­tle Media Maven is open to your sug­ges­tions for con­tent and always wel­comes tips, feed­back, ques­tions – what­ever is on your mind about the Seat­tle mar­ket and the media that serve it! Use the Com­ments box below or email us at seattlemediamaven@seattletimes.com.

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