Saturday, September 4, 2010

And Now, From Olympia...

This news comes from the Seattle Times and Washington State's chief economist, Arun Raha, who gave lawmakers an update on the economy Friday and laid out his perspective.

"Economic activity has slowed to an agonizing crawl. May and June saw a pause in activity, and July brought little relief. Job growth remains anemic ... housing is looking for a new bottom and despite some easing in credit conditions, small businesses continue to face a challenging credit environment. There is considerable drag in the economy and increased uncertainty," Raha said, reading from his report.
That's not all. "We have cut our 2011 employment growth forecasts roughly in half, from 2.7 percent to 1.3 percent on an annual average basis. We do not expect to reach our pre-recession peak in overall employment until the second quarter of 2013." 
Bottom line of all that: "I do not believe that we will fall back into recession, it will just continue to feel like one," he said.

Washington has an economy weighted with export in airplanes, technology, and farm commodities. As a result, the economy was slow to enter recession and will be late to the other side, whatever that will be. What Raha did not say explicitly, based only on the quote "activity has slowed to an agonizing crawl", is that the revenue available for lawmakers is still shrinking. Like other governments, the coming session is going to require painful decisions because government, here and elsewhere, has steadily become a major employer in the economy it serves. That model is getting crushed by the reality that it does not sustain itself by creating new goods and services for sale. The jobs are expensive because they provide benefits that many private employers cannot afford to provide. Will lawmakers in Olympia have the strength of knowledge to make the decisions in Washington to change the pattern during the 2011 session, or are we going to watch foolish political gridlock guided by "the party" here too. This is a fascinating time.