U.S. economy feels like the 1990s, but with more inequality, less readiness for a downturn
The Evergreen State has been on a tear since 2014, passing Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina to claw its way up from 14th place. Movements of this scale are unusual — Washington was the only state to move up in 2018.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest boost to Washington’s economy came from the information services and retail sectors, industries which include fast-growing, globe-spanning behemoths Microsoft and Amazon.
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The figures aren’t quite comparable, but with annual economic output of more than a half of a trillion dollars, Washington would fit right around Poland, Sweden and Belgium on the World Bank’s global list. Geographically, the state is about the size as Oklahoma or Missouri, and about half of its population lives in what the Census Bureau broadly defines as the Seattle metropolitan area.
Washington’s peers in the American West, Colorado (21st in 2010, now 16th) and Oregon (29th in 2013, now 25th), have also shaken up the rankings during the current economic expansion. The region enjoyed another year of rapid growth in 2018. Mountain West states Utah, Idaho, and Arizona all expanded at 4.0 percent or faster. Massachusetts grew 2.7 percent, below the national rate. Alaska was the only state to shrink in 2018, falling 0.3 as its statewide recession continued.
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Quarterly numbers show California likely passed the $3 trillion mark at the end of the year, towering above the next largest states, Texas ($1.8 trillion) and New York ($1.7 trillion), even as it saw its slowest population growth on record, according to state estimates reported by the Los Angeles Times this week.
The state’s economy is bigger than the 25 smallest states combined (including D.C.). It produces about 88 times the goods and services of Vermont, the state with the smallest economy.
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Adjusting for population, D.C. has the highest per-person economic output in the country at about $200,000 in 2018 dollars. The district is a hyper-urbanized anomaly, of course.
Among states, New York and Massachusetts lead with more than $80,00 in output per person. California ranks sixth, and Washington ranks eighth. At the other end of the spectrum, residents of Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia and Idaho produce about half as many goods and services per person. This measure doesn’t adjust for variations in how much a dollar can buy.
Developers appear to expect Washington’s boom to continue. Seattle leads the U.S. in the number of cranes looming over the city’s skyline, according to a popular index released by construction consultancy Rider Levett Bucknall. (The index includes 11 U.S. cities.)
On Saturday, one of those cranes collapsed, falling onto busy Mercer street and killing four people.