Economic growth continues, but economists predict slowdown

October 27, 2018 GMT

MOUNT VERNON — Economic growth may start to slow late next year in Skagit County, according to economists at a business leaders forum Thursday.

Economists Hart Hodges and Anneliese Vance-Sherman examined trends and projections in Skagit County’s economy, including continued growth in construction and government, opportunities in health care and a potential economic slowdown in 2019.

“We’re expecting growth to level and spread out,” said Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist at the state Employment Security Department.

In recovering from the 2008 recession, growth was concentrated in a few sectors, including construction and government, Vance-Sherman said. As a recovery matures, growth typically levels out and spreads to other sectors.

Hodges, director of the Center for Economic and Business Research at Western Washington University, said the center projects employment growth will slow, from increasing 2.5 percent in 2018 to increasing about 1.7 percent in 2019.

This projection includes the expected impact of tariffs and the risk of trade wars, he said.

Skagit County lies in an unusual location economically, Vance-Sherman said. While rural in character, the county’s proximity to Interstate 5 allows some of the growth seen in King and Snohomish counties to trickle north.

“(Skagit is) within an arm’s reach of where most of the jobs in the state are,” she said.

Although not as stagnant as other rural counties in the state, Skagit County still lags behind more urban counties economically, Vance-Sherman said.

The county’s labor force fell further than the state’s average and took longer to recover after the 2008 recession, Vance-Sherman said.

The county is recovering at about 2 percent per year, according to Employment Security Department data.

“There’s this urban-rural dynamic and we’re sort of between that,” she said.

An increasing number of people are living in Skagit County but working elsewhere, according to the Employment Security Department. About 27 percent of the county’s income comes from outside the county, compared to about 17 percent in 1990.

Moving forward, Vance-Sherman said there are considerable opportunities in the health care industry.

Positions for registered nurses are posted on nearly every job board, she said, and the job is among the top 10 occupations advertised online in Skagit County.