Seeing construction cranes is not a common sight for us here in Edmonds, unlike our neighbors in Seattle, who have been watching a record number of cranes dot their skyline the past couple of years. But the construction cranes in both Seattle and here are clear indicators of a strong regional and local economy.
Mike Rosenberg of The Seattle Times has been tracking the Seattle crane counts the past couple of years and reports that the Seattle skyline started 2018 with 45 cranes, the most of any U.S. city.
Seattle’s construction market remains healthy, despite the latest crane count falling below 50 for the first time since 2015.
Crane counts are but one indicator that signals the strength of a region’s economic vitality. Another indicator is real estate sales. Locally the City of Edmonds is an economic beneficiary due to the region’s robust construction and attractive real estate market.
Mr. Rosenberg reported on April 24, 2018 that the Seattle area continues its run as the nation’s hottest real estate market, and it has now seen home prices surge upward for a full six years — with more growth in home values during the current boom than during last decade’s bubble.
Single-family home costs across the metro area grew 12.7 percent in February from a year earlier, the biggest increase in the nation for the 18th month in a row and nearly double the national rate of 6.5 percent, according to the monthly Case-Shiller home price index.
The report marked six years since home values bottomed out in February 2012. Since then, values have increased 85 percent — nearly triple the region’s historical average for a typical six-year span. Only San Francisco and Las Vegas had bigger gains during that period. Seattle home costs have grown more than 10 percent, year-over-year, for 26 months in a row. That’s pushed the median cost of a single-family house to $820,000 in Seattle and $926,000 on the Eastside. Due to the tight housing market and high costs of homes in Seattle and the Eastside, Edmonds home values have grown 11.2 percent over 2017.
Another economic strength indicator is unemployment rates. Case-Shiller reported that the Seattle metro area had the biggest job growth in the past year among the 20 regions covered in the report. Snohomish County’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%, while Edmonds dropped to 3.5 percent.
The last economic strength indicator I want to mention is for restaurant and retail sales in Edmonds, which are faring well. Retail sales grew 10.5 percent and restaurant sales grew by 7.5 percent. In 2016 we had 122 eating and drinking establishments in Edmonds. Today we have 135, a 10.7 percent increase.
What do all these data tell us? The Answer is clearly that Edmonds economic activity will remain strong for 2018. And yes, Seattle will always have more cranes than Edmonds. Which is just the way we want it.
— By Scott James
City of Edmonds Finance Director