2020 Competitiveness Redbook

The 2020 Competitiveness Redbook is a data-driven guide to Washington’s economic health that uses comparisons with other states to illustrate performance in a variety of key indicators. And, it's now available to purchase in hard-copy ($12). 

Overall, the numbers continue to reflect a strong and growing economy. Job growth declined from the previous year, but Washington nevertheless added more than 87,000 new jobs (Table 4), representing a 2.5 increase and ranking sixth-highest in the country. Washington also ranks seventh in the country for per capita personal income (Table 6), moving the state up two spots from the previous year.

Washington's robust technology sector is responsible for much of the growth, particularly in personal income. The state ranks first in the country in the median wage for high-tech workers (Table 19), and fourth in the country for the share of high-tech workers, down slightly from the previous year. The tech sector accounts for more than 10% of Washington's total employment.

The state's low-cost electricity continues to provide a competitive advantage. Thanks to an abundance of clean, low-cost and renewable hydropower, Washington once again has the lowest-cost electricity in the nation for industrial customers (Table 42), and second-lowest cost for residential customers (Table 44). For commercial customers, Washington's electricity rates are ninth-lowest in the country (Table 43).

Exports are a significant driver of the state's economy and the numbers show a slight increase over the previous year (Table 8). This was enough for Washington to maintain its overall rank as fourth-highest in the country, bu the state slipped from second to third in exports per capita, falling behind Louisiana and Texas, which moved up one spot from the previous year.

Despite relatively strong growth in many indicators, the numbers point to continued challenges for Washington employers, particularly when it comes to the cost of doing business.

Following the national trend, workers' compensation benefits paid per covered fell compared to the previous year, but Washington continues to lead the country in this cost driver (Table 26). In addition, Washington's $13.50 hourly minimum wage is the highest statewide minimum wage in the country (Table 27).

Education has been a weak spot for the state (Table 34), but Washington improved its ranking for high school diplomas one place, from 16th to 15th, and maintained its ranking for bachelor's degrees (11th) and advanced degrees (12th). Higher education enrollment remained consistent, with overall state rank remaining 43rd in the nation (Table 35).

Overall, the 2020 Redbook shows Washington remains strong in several key categories, but some longtime concerns remain, including business cost and education rankings.

As policy makers consider tax and regulatory policy issues, we hope they find this data to be a useful resource.

To order copies of the 2020 Competitiveness Redbook, contact Jason Hagey at JasonH@awb.org or 360.943.1600.