Economy: Positive signs for 2013

POULSBO — More than 53 percent of respondents to a poll on say they expect the economy will be better in 2013 than in 2012.

There are signs they may be right.

Kitsap County enters 2013 with an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, the sixth-lowest in the state.

Home sales that closed in November had the fifth-highest median sales prices in the state.   The City of Poulsbo saw a month-to-month increase in sales tax revenue in late 2012, and construction of the new Safeway at Lincoln Road and 10th Avenue is expected to boost city revenues in 2013.

“The overall trends for 2012 were positive,” said Elizabeth Court, regional economist for the state Employment Security Department.

Kitsap County’s jobless rate steadily declined during the year, from a high of 8.1 percent in February to 6.9 percent in September, followed by 6.4 percent in October and 6.5 percent in November. In that last month, according to the state Employment Security Department, there were 112,290 people employed and 7,860 people unemployed out of a labor force of 120,150.

According to the Employment Security Department website, from November 2011 to November 2012 the biggest employment increases were in local government, 400; and goods producing, manufacturing, retail trade, and leisure and hospitality, 200 each. The biggest reductions were in the number of federal jobs, 600.

Statewide, the jobless rate was 7.8 percent in November, landing below 8 percent for the first time since January 2009 and marking the largest one-month drop — from 8.2 percent in October — since November 1977. Nationwide, the jobless rate was 7.7 percent.

“If you look at the overall trend, in general, Kitsap County fit the pattern with the state — decrease in government jobs, with the private sector continuing to make gains,” said Court, who reports on Kitsap County’s economy for the state. “Overall, we lost 800 government jobs but gained 2,500 private-sector jobs. The trend has been generally positive.”

The number of new jobless claims in Kitsap County has also fallen — from 2,200 in January 2009 to 1,282 in November 2012, Court said. The number of unemployed workers with ongoing jobless claims fell from 4,355 in January 2010 to 2,165 in November 2012. Fewer retail workers are filing unemployment claims, Court said.

In real estate, the median closed-sales price of a home in Kitsap County in 2012 was $233,000, almost par with 2011’s $234,500. But the median sales price of a home in November was $245,000, up from $232,500 the same month the previous year. That’s according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which tracks real estate data in 21 Washington counties.

In an MLS report, MLS board member Frank Wilson of John L. Scott Real Estate in Poulsbo described the current market as “the best of most worlds: low interest rates, a supply of homes to choose from that are aggressively priced, and lenders who are beginning to engage in ‘make sense’ loans.”

Wilson added, “To have this kind of market momentum going into 2013 is very exciting. Provided we don’t fall off a ‘fiscal cliff,’ we should have a good year in real estate.”

Brenda Prowse, managing broker of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty on Bainbridge Island, said the real estate market is “in much better shape entering 2013 than it has been in the past four or five years.”

In Kitsap County, closed sales for the year were up about 14 percent from 2011 “and easily the best we’ve seen since 2007,” she wrote in a forecast for the Jan. 11 Herald. “Pending sales in November were about 26 percent higher than a year ago. Our three-month moving average of median closed sale prices at the end of November showed that home prices were up about 2 percent compared to a year ago. We can expect our market to continue to improve in 2013, though prices should be restrained by continued sales of distressed properties.”

Poulsbo city finance director Deb Booher is optimistic about 2013.

2012 sales tax revenue is expected to come in $200,000 less than in 2011. “But I am seeing in the last couple of months an increase in our sales tax revenue over [those months in] prior years,” she said.

“We’ve had more activity coming through in home sales or for building homes. We know that Safeway is is planning to build. Our real estate excise tax came in higher than projected. Those are some signs we’ve seen. So I’m pretty confident.”


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