LONG BEACH Official sales results are now available for the 2010 summer season and Pacific Countys important retail sector saw a significant gain, though it still wasnt back to pre-recession levels.
Washington states compilation of tax receipts is the best available indicator of economic activity, but unfortunately takes several months to put together. The Department of Revenue took until last Wednesday to release its report on 2010s July through September quarter.
It shows that summer retail trade in the county totaled more than $19.3 million, 5.6 percent better than the summer of 2009 when the recession was near its worst here. Looking back to before the recession started, we still arent back to where we were. Sales totaled $21.9 million in the summer of 2008 and $20.1 million in 2007. A large part of the gap between this summer and 2007 and 2008 is a $1 million-plus decline in sales of building materials.
Total lodging receipts for summer 2010 neared $6.5 million, compared to less than $6.4 million in the summer of 2009, $5.5 million in 2008 and $5.9 million in 2007. Restaurant receipts have been quite stable the past four summers, with almost $7.4 million in 2010, $7.3 million in 2009, $7.35 million in 2008 and $7.6 million in 2007.
In some other respects, the countys economy continued to suffer this past summer. Total state-monitored sales across all industries, a broader measure that includes the hard-hit building business, fell to $59.3 million last summer from $63.4 million in the summer of 2009, a 6.7 percent drop. This was worse than in the state as a whole, where overall sales actually improved, though only by two-tenths of 1 percent. Total summer sales peaked here in Pacific County in 2007, at nearly $72 million during the home-building boom.
Beyond the resilience of the countys retail and tourism businesses, the biggest issue confirmed by these new state statistics is the continuing struggle of the local construction industry.
Total summer construction approached $10 million, which was down from more than $16 million in the summer of 2009, $18.5 million in 2008, and $22.7 million in 2007. Looking just at the sub-category of building construction, the summer 2010 total was $3.1 million, less than half of the $6.9 million recorded in summer 2009, and less than three-tenths of what it was in summer 2008.
Other types of construction were also in a depression throughout the county. Heavy construction mostly relating to highways totaled $1.5 million this summer compared to $3.5 million in 2009, but only $710,000 in 2008. This type of contracting experiences major year-to-year swings depending on government contracts.
Subcontractors for example involved in pouring concrete, site preparation, plumbing, painting and electrical work reported about $5.4 million in the summer of 2010 compared to $5.7 million in 2009, $6.8 million in 2008 and $8.1 million in 2007.
Even with construction still in the doldrums, Pacific fared far better this past summer than neighboring Wahkiakum County, where the economy shrunk by one-third, from a total of $8.4 million in summer 2009 to $5.6 million in 2010. But like Pacific, Wahkiakums retail sector actually enjoyed better sales last summer than in 2009, with a healthy gain of 15 percent. The countys big loss was in manufacturing, which includes mills, which fell from more than $2.7 million in the summer of 2009 to $228,000 this summer.