OLYMPIA - A variety of new statistics suggest that while Pacific County's home construction and real estate businesses have slowed dramatically in past year, last summer's all-time tourist season was busy enough to boost our economy considerably above levels seen elsewhere in Washington state.

First, the good news: During the summer season when most retail businesses on the coast make the profits needed to tide them over in these slow months of winter, many did quite well. Pacific County retailers reported a 9.16 percent gain in retail trade during the July-August-September quarter, rising to about $21.9 million compared to $20 million in the third quarter of 2007.

In fact, the summer of 2008 set a record for retail trade here in Pacific County, though this was partly due to high gasoline prices helping out local service stations and convenience stores. They recorded sales of nearly $2.7 million, up from $1.5 million during the summer of 2007.

In contrast, statewide, retail trade was down 6.2 percent to $12.4 billion. Retail trade is a subset of all taxable retail sales that excludes construction, services and other non-retail businesses. Retail trade is a better measure of consumer purchases.

Looking at accommodations and food service businesses that cater in large part to tourists indicates some softness in that important area, with summer 2008 receipts totaling $12.9 million in Pacific County, compared to nearly $13.6 million the previous summer.

Statewide, overall taxable sales declined 4.2 percent to $29.8 billion during the third quarter of 2008, the Washington State Department of Revenue reported on Jan. 13. Pacific County reflected this trend, recording a 4.15 percent drop in total sales in the third quarter, to $68.9 million from $71.9 million in summer 2007. Things like retail sales and accommodations are contained within this larger category.

The big hit was in construction, which fell to $18.5 million in the summer of 2008 compared to $22.7 in summer 2007. But it's worth bearing in mind that the 2008 figure was still far higher than the $13.15 million reported in 2006.

With winter setting in and all of Western Washington struggling under the weight of a big snowstorm, the latest real estate sales figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service show big declines in the county in December.

The number of pending home sales in the county plunged 47 percent in December compared to a year earlier, with nine sales in progress instead of the 17 in December 2007. For all 19 counties tracked by the service, mostly in Western Washington, the average drop was about 18 percent.

The median sales price also fell, though not as sharply, a 22 percent decline to $148,000 instead of the $189,500 average in December 2007. Throughout the multiple-listing area, the average drop was 9 percent.

A number of other counties had it far worse than Pacific in terms of December real estate. Average sales prices dropped by nearly half in San Juan County, for example, and the number of pending sales was down by more than half in the Shelton/Mason County area.

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