Business
11:02 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Forecast for Pierce County's Economy in 2014: Partly Sunny

It’s taking longer for Pierce County to bounce back from the recession than counties to the north, such as King and Snohomish. But economists at Pacific Lutheran University expect the economy in Tacoma and the region to show some improvement this year. 

PLU economists Martin Wurm and Neal Johnson have been crunching the numbers on everything from Pierce County’s housing market to retail sales to come up with an economic forecast. 

Wurm says the job market in the county is still weak due to a stagnant construction sector and the loss of government jobs. But he says there are some bright signs, such as State Farm moving into the downtown Tacoma building that Russell Investments abandoned.

"We see private firms moving back in. We see the health care sector in the county doing very well," Wurm said. "Then there’s other components. Retail sales have been very, very strong. This is good for small businesses. As small businesses expand, they have more income to have the ability to hire more, and we hope this trend will continue forward."

Wurm and Johnson say the county will probably add about 4,600 jobs this year.

But they say there are still risks. The Fourth Stryker Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is being deactivated, and Wurm says it’s unclear what impact that will have on civilian employment at the base and on nearby businesses. Also, a slowdown in China’s economy could hurt traffic at the port.

Wurm and Johnson took over responsibility for the Pierce County Economic Index from professors at the University of Puget Sound last year. They presented their forecast and index at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber's 2014 Horizons Economic Forecast.