LONG BEACH — After plunging in 2009 during the worst of the recession, retail sales rebounded to almost normal in Pacific County in 2010. Not only retail stores, but a wide variety of other types of business started healing last year.

The big exception was building construction, which shrank to its smallest level of activity in 15 years.

Retail sales totaled $65.34 million in 2010, according to a report issued last Wednesday by the Washington State Department of Revenue. This is a 2.3 percent increase over 2009’s level of $63.89 million and is nearly back to what it was before the peak boom year of 2008.

Judging by lodging and restaurant receipts, the county’s important tourism sector also held its own last year. Together, these businesses brought in more than $35 million in 2010, an all-time record and up 2.25 percent from 2009. Separately, accommodations nearly hit $14.8 million, up 3.5 percent from 2009. Restaurants, food services and drinking places topped $20.2 million, a 1.4 percent gain.

Many non-retail businesses in the county — from wholesale trade to management, education and health services — also recorded a banner year in 2010.

Wholesale trade racked up an all-time record of more than $16.8 million in sales in 2010, up 44.5 percent from 2009. And the category that includes health services was up 15.4 percent for the year.

All these numbers are from the Department of Revenue’s authoritative compilation of annual economic activity. This takes several months to put together but provides the best available picture of each county’s businesses based on their state tax returns.

 

Building construction slowest in 15 years

The big problem for Pacific County’s economy continues to be construction. 

Construction totaled $35.9 million in the county in 2010. This is a 30.2 percent decline from 2009’s total of $51.4 million and is the slowest pace for overall construction since 2004.

An important sub-category — construction of buildings — totaled just $12 million in 2010, down 50 percent from nearly $24 million in 2009. In 2008, construction of buildings amounted to $44.6 million in Pacific County.

In fact, 2010 was the worst year for building construction in the county since 1995, when it dipped to $11.7 million, according to a search of Department of Revenue archives.

The two other sub-categories of contracting also suffered in 2010. Heavy construction and highways totaled just over $4 million for the year, down from about $6 million in 2009. And special trade contractors — which basically are specialist subcontractors — racked up $19.8 million in work in 2010 compared to $21.5 million in 2009.

Another economic sector tied to property also suffered. Real estate rental and leasing totaled less than $3 million in 2010, an 11.4 percent drop.

 

Differences between retail stores

Although retail stores increased 2.3 percent overall, some did much better than others.

As might be guessed because of the sorry condition of the building trades, stores in the business of selling building materials, garden equipment and supplies didn’t do so well in 2010. They tallied $14.2 million in sales in the county last year, nearly a 10 percent drop from 2009 and about a 20 percent drop since 2008.

On the other hand, sales of other kinds of products mostly improved or at least remained stable from 2009 to 2010:

• Motor vehicles and parts sales: Up 1.9 percent

• Furniture and home furnishings: Up 0.4 percent

• Electronics and appliances: Up 14 percent

• Food and beverage stores: Down 3.1 percent

• Drug and health stores: Unchanged

• Gas stations and convenience stores: Up 30 percent

• Apparel and accessories: Up 16.5 percent

• Sporting goods, toys, books and music stores: Up 10.2 percent

• General merchandise stores: Unchanged

• E-commerce and mail order: Up 9.4 percent

• Miscellaneous retailers: Up 7 percent

 

Taking everything into account

Mostly because of the dire condition of the construction business, the state’s broadest measure of how well Pacific County’s economy is performing shrank 3.l percent between 2009 and 2010, from $201.6 million to $195.3 million. 

In neighboring counties, overall sales fell 25.9 percent in Wahkiakum, rose 2.7 percent in Grays Harbor and fell 7.7 percent in Lewis. Statewide, total sales dropped one-tenth of a percent.

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