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Competitiveness Redbook 2018

The 2018 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) and digital ($7) formats.

The latest numbers show job growth remains a strength in Washington, with nearly 80,000 new jobs added over the previous year (Table 4). However, that’s 21,000 fewer new jobs than the previous year, dropping the state one position to sixth-highest in the country.

High-tech and manufacturing remain important drivers of Washington’s economy, fueling much of the job and population growth in the central Puget Sound region. Washington remained ninth-highest in the nation for high-tech employment with 226,452 workers (Table 19) and the 13th-most populous state (Table 1) overall.

In another sign of economic strength, Washington’s gross domestic product (GDP) jumped six places
over the previous year, moving to 14th in the nation and No. 1 in annual percentage growth (Table 7).

Washington’s exports — an important part of the state’s economy — decreased compared to the previous year, but the state remains first in the nation for exports per capita and third in overall exports (Table 8).

The data show Washington continuing to face several challenges, particularly regarding the cost of doing business.

Washington remains a relatively high-cost state for employers, with business paying 57.6 percent of all state and local taxes (Table 11). In addition, Washington remains a high-cost state for unemployment insurance taxes, ranking No. 10 in the country (Table 24) and the state retained its highest-in-the-nation rank for workers’ compensation benefits (Table 26). Washington’s state minimum wage remains tied for highest in the country, as well (Table 27).

Even so, Washington jumped to No. 1 in the nation in CNBC’s annual ranking of the top states for business (Table 13). The rankings cited economic growth, the concentration of STEM workers and venture capital investment among other factors. Washington’s lack of a state income tax has also helped boosts its score in various business climate rankings.

Overall, the 2018 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.

Click here for the digital (mobile-friendly) version of Redbook. For a password to the online version or to buy a print version, contact AWB by email or calling 360.943.1600.