Spokane County Employment and Unemployment for June

 

The Washington Employment Security Department has released their employment and unemployment estimates for June 2014. The estimate of non-farm employed has risen to 217,900. This is generally in line with the expected progression for Spokane County.

Oddly, the chart curve at left is different than what is shown in the data table. In June of 2013 there were 216,200 people, and this rose to 217,900 on June 2014.  Look at the horizontal red line added to the chart at left – the 2014 peak is shown as less than a year ago. The chart does not agree with the data table. Something is wrong here and the State needs to fix it or explain what is happening.

JuneEmpl

 

 

The unemployment rate is the percent of those “in the labor force” age 16-64, that are looking for work but are not yet employed.

JuneUnempl

 

The unemployment rate has gone down for two reasons: (1) more people are estimated to be employed, and (2) the size of the labor force is smaller.

Each of those values is an estimate and the short term (monthly) estimates can vary due to the confidence of the estimate.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says the 90% confidence interval for the national employment estimates is + or – 0.2%. That means there is a 9 in 10 chance the actual employment number lies within + or – 0.2% of what they publish as the official estimate. The estimate is not exact because they survey only a sample of the population – consequently, the estimate will be off by a bit from the actual number (which we would only know if we could survey every single person in the country).

The State of Washington uses a subset of their national survey but does not appear to provide a confidence interval (they might but it was not immediately located).

Washington’s web site for the American Community Survey (derived from US Census, not BLS), for Spokane County in 2012, has an estimate of about 210,130 employed with a confidence interval of + or – 1.1%. That is a different survey and cannot be directly compared with the ESD numbers from the US BLS. But … it helps us understand that the unemployment estimate is just an estimate with an associated but not disclosed confidence interval.

We would be better served with numbers such as May 2014: 6.6% + or – 0.2% (we don’t know that 0.2% if the right value – this is for an example only) and June is 5.6% + or – 0.2%. That means for May, hypothetically, the actual unemployment percentile could be anywhere in the range 6.4 to 6.8% and for June 5.4 to 5.8%. If the confidence interval is larger, then the range is going to be larger too.

Spokesman-Review average daily circulation

Circulation data is surprisingly hard to find. The chart below should be considered approximate.

The numbers may come from different months of each year. Various source report different numbers – average daily subscribers, total Sunday edition subscribers  (about 20% more than the average daily subscribers), total estimated number of readers per print copy, total subscribers including print and digital – and so on – making it hard to find definitive numbers when we do not have access to the Audit Bureau of Circulations database.

Consequently, treat this chart as an approximate trend.

SRCirculationMultiple sources were used for this – too many to list. The 2006 data point is estimated as the average of 2005 and 2007.

The newspaper industry was hit by economic, technology and competitive threats.  The old model was to sell eyeballs to advertisers (paying for production of the day’s print edition) and sell subscriptions to readers (paying for delivery of the paper).

Craigslist, and later EBay and Amazon, obliterated the classified ad revenue, which was once said to account for 40% of a typical paper’s revenue, 20 years ago.

Internet distribution meant that a print edition was no longer needed and the cost of physical delivery fell close to zero (compared to the old “paper boy” delivery of a printed paper).

The Internet also created new kinds of competitors. TV stations began to deliver “print” news stories. Access to “news” became free.  In the recent bad economy, subscribers became former subscribers to save money.

New kinds of competitive “news” emerged, usually online. Many news consumers stopped reading traditional news and now read mostly what they see shared on social media, or watch from the nation’s non-news reporters like Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.

Together this has created a terrifically tough market for the original printed newspaper business.

Spokane Real Estate Home Foreclosures

The following charts are from Zillow.com.

SpokaneForeclosureSales

SpokaneForeclosedHomes

Spokane Convention Center charges a fee to watch the 4th of July Fireworks

Riverfront Park fireworks display organizers charge to watch from PFD steps.

This is new

Organizers charged people who wanted to sit on the stairs behind the convention center.   It cost $5 to $10 for a seat on the stairs. It cost $20 for seats on the dock.

and

All of the money from the tickets goes to the convention center.

The most likely reason for the new fee is to inflate the attendance count at the underused Convention Center. You can be sure that those who paid the new fee will be counted as Convention Center attendees. In spite of 3 expansions, the facilities continue to have fewer attendees than they did 15 years ago.

WSU, UW in pissing match over future Spokane medical school

UW and WSU continue to argue over Spokane-based medical education or a med school.

Spokane promoters again point to an exaggerated and fictitious economic impact, and the parent of a Spokane WWAMI medical student rips the Spokane operation, saying facilities are inadequate and students are abandoning the program.

Spokane leaders point with pride to the city’s growing importance as a provider of medical services, and cite a 2010 consultant’s report which says that a new medical school there would have a $2.1 billion statewide economic impact — $1.6 billion of that in Eastern Washington.

via WSU, UW spar over future of region’s med schools | Local News | The Seattle Times.

See “Forecast Economic Impacts of the Spokane Medical School” to learn why this claim is a work of fiction. Spokane is famous for its tall tales and lies. Also see “WSU-Spokane’s Diversity Problem” (enrollment is 73% female, 27% mail overall, and 87% female at the undergraduate level).

The parent of a WWAMI student at the Spokane campus (see comments of “user492056″) provides this feet on the ground perspective that the facilities are inadequate and most of the students are abandoning the program – something that Spokane’s propaganda shill media are not reporting on:

The current Spokane medical sciences education site is a cooperative venture between Eastern, Gonzaga, Whitworth, and WSU for the education of nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dental students, and pharmacists.  The afterthought space left over for medical students is completely inadequate.  The lecture space accommodates at most twenty students without even providing electrical outlets to let students use modern technology.

Only nine of the past year’s twenty first year Spokane medical students are choosing to stay in Spokane for their second year.  This fact speaks volumes.  None of Pullman’s first year medical students are going to Spokane for their second year despite aggressive recruitment.  All of them are transferring to Seattle to complete their medical education.

If true[1], Spokane’s multi-zillion $ economic impact medical education program seems to have failed at launch. In real cities, these allegations would be the subject of the 4th estate keeping local government in line. But, you know the story, this is Spokane and we have Spokane promotional media.

[1] Since Confirmed as true. Buried in the Journal of Business on page 27 a few days after this post went live. Thank you JoB and SR (also) for eventually covering this story.

Keywords: Spokane medical school Hoopfest lilac festival parade

Riverfront Park Master Plan 2014 acknowledges low wage/poverty problem

Link to Spokane’s Riverfront Park Master Plan (PDF file). Most of the development ideas are pretty cool, and the park is in need of an upgrade.  The long term neglect is an indicator that reminds us of the poor economic situation. From the Master Plan itself:

“While the city of Spokane is the second largest metropolitan region in the State, it has some of the highest rates of poverty. Spokane’s median household income is just 70% of the statewide figure.”

More on that topic:

The following is quoted from those linked pages.

As you can see in the following chart, while Spokane (red line) wages have increased, average wages in the state (blue line) have increased faster. Over several decades, wages in the State have increased at twice the rate of wages in Spokane. Stated another way, the longer we stay in Spokane the further behind we fall.


Average wages are about 80% of the rest of the State, yet our costs of living are closer to 100%. We have to spend close to the national average to live here (somethings, like health care, are priced higher than the national average).

[Update: The Riverfront Park Master Plan says that median wages have fallen to the 70% level. The chart above uses average wages, not median, but chances are good that the average wage has fallen further, as this has been a 30 year trend.]

Source: Spokane Poverty Rates

Spokane Employment and Unemployment Update

Long term trend from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

SMS53440600000000001_246930_1403720257481Shorter term data (which may include local adjustments) from the Washington Employment Security Department’s Numbers and Trends web site:

SpokaneJobs

The chart now shows steady job growth. Unemployment has dropped, as this blog predicted long ago, at about a one percentile point per year rate.

SpokaneUnEmpProjection

If everything remains the same, total jobs may reach the prior peak 2008 level by 2016. Old projections thought that by about 2016, there would be 235,000 jobs. This is roughly where jobs need to catch up to be comparable to the jobs/population ratio in 2008, due to continued population growth. However, labor force participation has been falling, which means more people are not working (either by choice or because they gave up looking for work).

EmpProjection

The simplest “take away” is that the Spokane MSA will be back to 2008 jobs level by about 2016. The  United States as a whole already reached the 2008 level earlier this year; Spokane is taking twice as along as the rest of the country.

A related takeaway, however, is that job growth remains tepid, growing about half as fast as during the 2002-2008 period or the 1990 to 2000 period. Just look at the red line versus the blue line to see the job growth rate, visually. Slow growth in employment is likely to retain Spokane’s low wage problem. (Another post on that shortly).

Analyst: “Ambassadors Group – Successful Turnaround Unlikely”

UPDATE: Since this was posted, Ambassadors Group announced the lay off of 40 workers.

The Ambassadors Group is likely to disagree: Ambassadors Group – Successful Turnaround Unlikely (EPAX) | Seeking Alpha. (Free registration required to read the entire article.)

Ambassadors Group is based in Spokane. In recent years, their annual revenue has been cut in half, founding executives departed without a meaningful explanation, and the company put its newly constructed corporate headquarters up for sale. The analyst notes positive developments such as tight control on expenses and the company continues to pay a dividend. Some executives have recently increased their shareholdings suggesting a sign of confidence in their strategy.

On the downside, this analyst notes the business relies on shady marketing techniques, and the number of students enrolled for 2014 travel programs has fallen by 12% from 2013, as previously enrolled students are withdrawing from the programs. The analyst’s concern is that enrollments are continuing to drop and the firm will eventually run out of cash. The 6.6% dividend is well above market averages and is a sign of risk.

The company is trying to sell its corporate HQ building but it remains unsold after one and a half years and a price drop from $13.3 million to $11.9 million:

This raises some doubts on the true value of the building. If company is unable to sell it for the indicated price and is not renting-out the unused half, maybe there is no demand for such office space in Spokane and the value of the building is significantly less than $11.9m.

The analysts main concern is long term declining enrollments indicate the turn around strategy is not working and the firm will eventually run out of cash.

85% of the company’s 218 employees are based in Spokane.

My take is that I would not rule out a turn around; however, numerous years of year-over-year declines in sales/revenue is worrisome. During this decline, revenues have been cut in half, total assets are down by a third, and net income was negative in 2013. Couple that with an on-going struggle to maintain enrollments and revenues, this makes for a difficult situation.

Zillow’s ranking of the Spokane Real Estate Market

Zillow.com is an online service that publishes information about homes. Not just for sale but also those that have sold, or are in foreclosure. Zillow also tracks changes in the local market.

According to Zillow,

  • The city of Spokane housing market is rated 1.6 out of 10 on their proprietary market health scoring system.
  • Spokane Valley market is rated 4.1 out of 10 
  • Spokane County is rated 1.4 out of 10 with an average listing time of 136 days.

The scale goes from 1 to 10 where 10 is a very healthy market. All of the above are flagged as “downwards” trending.

Their scoring system looks at days on market, foreclosures, delinquencies, negative equity, changes in home values, and trends in the days on the market metric. But they do not explain the details of how their proprietary scoring system works.

Long term trend in number of homes sold

The web site Trulia.com provides a chart showing the longer term number of home units sold trend. Unfortunately, the chart uses a logarithmic scale for the Y-axis, which greatly distorts the chart.

Here’s the original Trulia.com chart for Spokane:

graph

Here is a version of the chart converted to show the trend, but using a linear Y-axis, making it easy to see the true trend over time. Not shown on the X-axis, below, are the years 2000 to 2014, corresponding to the X-axis shown above. The chart below, ends at the low point for 2014. Obviously, the number of homes sold will increase through the spring and summer.

image

The second chart was made by converting the original data chart into numeric values, using a program that extracts approximate data points from charts. The extracted data points are used in a spreadsheet program to redraw the chart or perform other analysis.   The conversion produces values that are close to the original but it is not possible to recover the exact data used in the original chart. However, the approximation produces a valid summary of the long term trend. It is assumed this refers to the number of homes old per month, but Trulia does not specify.

This chart was created in response to several questions received about the current real estate market.

Did Spokane really see an increase in tourism related jobs?

We previously covered how a decline in passengers and airplanes at both main airports is widely described by area “leaders” as “continued growth in aviation.

Only in Spokane’s bizarro world is a decline considered growth.

Now we seem to have another example of decline = growth.

Here is a chart of employment change in Spokane County from March 2013 to March 2014. This data comes from the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) which gets its data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tourism is most closely connected to the hospitality (hotels) and restaurant sectors, and a tiny, tiny bit to the retail trade sector.

Note that employment in retail trade is down by -200 jobs year over year, employment in the hospitality (hotels) sector is down by -900 and employment in drinking and eating establishments (restaurants) is down by -200 year over year. Mar13-Mar14

In fact, retail sales tax collections are down 2 percent for the early part of 2014.

Visit  Spokane issues a press release:

Visit Spokane announced that Spokane County added 180 jobs in the tourism industry last year, in local retail stores, restaurants, hotels and more. Visit Spokane staff said Washington’s growth in the tourism industry is still slower than the rest of the nation.

Visitors to Spokane have increased so much that Visit Spokane closed its downtown visitor information center in October of 2013 and replaced it with a kiosk in the Riverfront Square mall.

Watch the pea under the thimble. They seem to have lumped together “retail stores, restaurants, hotels AND MORE” to come up with an increase.  Yet the proxies for visitors are most closely correlated with the hotel industry and food services, both of which are down year over year.

Perhaps they found a different set of dates over which to do the year over year comparison, rather than the most recent 12 month period for which data is available.

Visit Spokane has a history of making things up and contributes to the image that Spokane remains the scam and fraud capital of America. This is not a good thing.

As you can see below:

  • Hotel industry employment is down,
  • Bloomsday participants are in decline,
  • Airport passengers are in a long term decline,
  • Convention center attendance is in long term decline.

By objective measures, Spokane tourism is not doing so great.

Proxy Measures of Visitors to  Spokane Based on Actual Data

Hospitality (hotels) industry employment in the City of Spokane since 1993 (data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Hospitality employment is on par with about a dozen  years ago – in other words, no growth in a dozen years.

SMU53440607000000001_730618_1398282555622

Bloomsday

Bloomsday participants through 2014. 2014TotalBloomsday (1)

Airport

Passenger usage at the Spokane International Airport since 1990. As you can see, passenger counts are less than they were in about 1994. There has been a slight year over year increase in recent months but this is not included in this chart. Data from the FAA. 2013NovSIA   The Spokane Public Facilities District (aka Convention Center and Arena) is a hoot. Attendance at all facilities is downwards for 15 years. (The first few years of the chart is artificially low due to data not available for all facilities in the first years.)

chart_4

Spokane Chiefs (Hockey) game attendance

Since 2007-2008, the average per game attendance trend is slightly down. (Source)

Hoopfest

We think Hoopfest has shown an increase in attendance and could be another proxy indicator; however, data on long term registrations was not readily available and the crowd size estimates are not reliable.

Conclusion

Just not seeing a big growth in tourism related businesses in the area.

Spokane Real Estate – It’s all for sale

 

Here is a map showing homes for sale, as drawn by Zillow.com. This excludes homes in foreclosure or bank owned properties that are not yet listed; adding in those homes increases the number by about one-third. This is just one area in North Spokane.

From a sampling of listings on Zillow, many homes have asking prices close to or well below their original purchase price going back as much as ten years. Many homes bought since 2005 are having a hard time. For the seller, add in 6% commission, plus maybe 2% expenses of sale and closing, and possibly an additional 2% for buyers demanding the seller pay a part or all of their loan costs and Spokane real estate sellers are having another tough year – that’s another 10% cost after taking a loss on the sale.

Spokane promoters push the “cheap housing” meme. But buyers should consider why homes are cheap – and often becoming cheaper in recent years.

See “Update” after the chart.

Spokane1

Update

In a tough market, buyers can push for and often get “seller concessions”.  For example, a buyer can demand that the seller pay not only all closing costs (versus splitting this 50:50), but can have the seller pay the buyer’s own loan costs including “points” and other loan fees that can amount to thousands of dollars. These concessions do not (often) show up in the officially recorded sale price.

For example, a home receives an offer for $150,000. This is the officially recorded price of the home at sale. However, as part of the offer, the buyer demands that the seller pay all closing costs and $2,000 of the buyer’s loan origination costs, plus the costs of inspections. Because the market is weak, the sellers often concede and eat the costs. The effect of this is  the “real” sale price is $145,000 (or less). But in the official records, the price is recorded as $150,000. Even though from the seller’s perspective, the real price is $150,000 minus a $5,000 discount.

This keeps the median price high and the realtors still get paid their 6% commission based on the fictitious $150,000 sale price. By keeping the median price higher than it actually is, realtors can issue misleading price trend reports making home prices look higher than what the actual market clearing price has been for actual homes. Because of the commission structure, they have a built conflict of interest bias is encouraging these types of transactions.

A lot of variables go into the market price of a home. The price of a home is not just the price of the home – it also includes the current price of money. Interest rates are the “price of money”. When the price of money is cheap, the price of the home can be higher than it otherwise would be – or the buyer can choose to buy higher priced, more upscale homes. For most home buyers, all that matters is the total monthly payment which is determined by the home price, the size of the loan, and the current interest rate.

Obviously, other factors impacting home prices include the local economy and job growth/income growth, and the supply of homes.

In a flat or down market, however, buyers can seek seller concessions, described above. This creates an artificial “median sales price” that is higher than the true market price.  The “median sales price” is the value put out in press releases by the local real estate sales agents associations – but as you can see, the official median sales price may not be an accurate reflection of the market, especially when sellers are making “off the record” concessions to the buyers. The median price is also influenced by the mix of homes that are selling – lower interest rates can lead to buyers choosing more expensive homes (for the same monthly payment), driving up the median.

Another example of how seller concessions are hidden from buyers of other area properties. Basically, a buyer relies on their real estate sales agents input on selecting a bid price. The agent shows the sales price of local homes but does not disclose the VA/FHA loan fees being paid by the seller. The buyer sees an inflated and untrue price for the local homes and therefore, ends up being tricked into making an offer above a fair price .

And always remember

Offering bogus statistics

If a client is hesitant about offering too much, an agent will sometimes share rosy predictions about where the market is heading.  The National Association of Realtors is usually a good source of overly optimistic market forecasts.

(Link)

 

Spokane’s Signature Genomic Laboratories to close

Must be the lack of the heated pedestrian bike bridge that did them in:

Signature Genomic Laboratories, a pioneering Spokane-based tech company that once had 120 workers, will close by mid-2014.

via Signature Genomic Laboratories to close by mid-2014 – Spokesman.com – April 30, 2014.

Related: Coldwater Creek in bankruptcy/liquidation, Sterling’s upcoming re-org and layoffs (was acquired by Umpqua Bank), Flyback Energy Systems shrinking to nothing … no wonder there is no job growth. Local leaders would be wise to stop the propaganda for a moment and think through useful initiatives to address these serious problems.

Pouring more concrete to expand downtown “civic” facilities – which has unequivocally reduced jobs and reduced visitors to the city – is not the solution.  Yet even though this strategy has been shown not work, we are now pouring more concrete and proposing pouring more in the near future – heated pedestrian/bike bridge, downtown sports complex, and renovating Riverfront park (probably needed too), and a downtown trolley – all with the false claims of creating jobs and increasing visitors.

Keywords: Bloomsday Run Results, Lilac Festival Parade, Armed Forces Day Spokane, Marching Bands, Bloomsday walk, Spokane tech, biotech, biomedical, science

Spokane Propaganda Style Manual Revealed

The link is about New York City’s propaganda style manual, explaining how they inflated their tech sector to pretend the city is competitive with Silicon Valley (when it is not). They must have read the Spokane style guide! See NYC Desperate to Pretend It’s a Huge Tech Hub — Daily Intelligencer.

1. Define tech really, really broadly [to include sales jobs, video editors, photocopy machine repair techs]

2. Fudge the scale on your charts.

Make up anything!:

3. Optimize the formula for your city’s benefit [split other areas, like the SF Bay area, into 2 chunks, and then compare yourself to either half!]

The Spokane Public Facilities District chose this approach by publishing economic impact studies only for the not normal 2007 and  modified calendar 2010 years and pretending this would be the normal economic impact every year for Spokane:

4. Ignore the measurements that really matter.

Lots more Spokane examples here!

Basic message: Spokane retains its title as the fraud and scam capital of America. We work hard at this and are damned proud of it – so there!

Corollary: To fix this muddy flat lined economy, the local culture must embrace the truth and stop the lying, distortion and exaggeration. Unfortunately, that will never happen.

Keywords: Bloomsday, run, lilac, festival, parade, marching, bands, spokane, convention, center

New online game – spot the Spokane Convention Center expansion bump in local employment!

The Spokane Convention Center is building its 3rd expansion since the year 2000.

They promised us more jobs – can you spot the jobs increase in the City of Spokane?

Total jobs in the City of Spokane are now less than in 1996  (data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics):LAUCT536700000000005_742370_1398301192417

Good thing Spokane has such a booming economy with huge job growth typical of the State!  Oh wait, its once fast growing job market collapsed and has since flat lined.

Of course, they also promised more jobs and more visitors. Surely this shows up in the hotel industry employment, as a great proxy for visitors to Spokane? After all 54% of all money spent by convention center visitors, they say, goes to the hotel industry.

Hospitality (hotels) industry employment in the City of Spokane since 1993 (data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics):

SMU53440607000000001_730618_1398282555622

Just eyeballing the chart the low point is about the high point in 1997. Hmmmm.

Well, at least they have increasing attendance at the PFD facilities, thanks to all those expansion projects!

The Spokesman-Review says the PFD is awesome and doing fantastic!  And we all know everything the Spokesman-Review publishes is highly accurate, never spun as a propaganda – of course!

chart_4

Okay, so all those visitors are not hiding out at the Convention Center. Where could they possibly be?

They said expansion would produce more visitors so the airport surely shows lots more passengers?

SIA Jun 2013

 

Sure is a mystery to us. They promised more jobs and more visitors. They must be hiding here somewhere. May be selling prostitution on East Sprague or door-to-door meth sales?

They could not possibly have lied to us, could they? Could they? …

I know, let’s build a Spokane Field House downtown because that will surely increase visitors and jobs! Then add a heated pedestrian/bike bridge. But why stop there? Let’s build a downtown trolley! And then light rail to the airport! 

But whatever we do, don’t let the Spokane Indians build a casino/shopping/entertainment/convention center complex because the Spokane area doesn’t need more jobs. And besides, it would compete with the downtown business cartel. Oops. We were not supposed to say that.

Related: All those self promotion programs to attract tourists dollars  look to be a fraud too.

Keywords: Bloomsday Run, Lilac Festival, Parade, Marching Bands, Floats, Walk

Spokane County jobs recovery in charts, recovery remains weak

This chart comes from the Calculated Risk blog and shows the impact of the Great Recession on U.S. non-farm jobs, compared to other recessions.  As of today, the US has recovered almost all of the jobs lost (see red line) and by the next update, next week, will likely have recovered 100% of the jobs lost.

EmployRecFeb2014

Spokane County has recovered just under half of the jobs that were lost. The Great Recession began in November of 2007. This chart shows non-farm jobs from January 2008 to the present.

Spokane County’s job recovery is very weak relative to the nation as a whole.

SMS53440600000000001_265454_1396052338773The chart comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

Spokane Propaganda-style never goes stale!

The Pacific Northwest Qualifier Volleyball Tournament will host 603 teams at the Spokane Convention Center.”

But actually:

The teams play at one of three sites in the greater Spokane area: Spokane Convention Center, Eastern Washington University, and the HUB in the Valley

The logos of all three locations are prominent here. Don’t bring your own food to the Convention Center because apparently that’s dangerous; the other two venues allow you to bring your own food.

As reported here previously, the 2007 economic study attributed all of the economic benefits to the Convention Center.

“The annual PNW Volleyball tournament took place in 2012 at  Eastern Washington University, Liberty Lake HUB Sports Center and at the Convention Center. But the CH Johnson study (Table A-19, page 19) appears to attribute 100% of the 2007 Volleyball PNW economic impacts to the Convention Center and none to other venues. That does not seem right.”

But its right and proper when you use Spokane Propaganda-style to hide the decline in attendance. The last time the Spokesman-Review accurately reported on declining Convention Center attendance was back in 2005.

This story is obviously off limits. But apparently media’s shredding of their own credibility is not off limits, since that is what they are doing. Too bad.

This is not about whether the event is good or not (obviously its good!) or whether having the Convention Center in town is good or bad. This is about hiding the decline in attendance from the people of Spokane while repeatedly expanding the facilities. The most direct and honest objective measure of management success is – attendance – which is in a long term decline. But don’t tell anyone! Keep this a deep secret please!

 

Spokane Memorial Arena Attendance

Here’s the chart and the rest of the story at the link. All data comes from public domain sources including Eastern Washington University.

chart_2

Here’s the propaganda spin in the Spokesman-Review because, you know, this is Spokane.  Attendance trends are only hinted at in a single sentence near the end of the story where they write “Average attendance from 2008-2012 was just over 700,000 people, peaking in 2010 at 879,813“, giving the impression that attendance is growing, which is false. Nothing in the story disputes that attendance remains down over the long term in spite of numerous facility upgrades.

Patrick Jones of EWU says there may be higher spending than in 2010.   He must be hypothesizing per person spending has gone up (likely). But compare the 2010 attendance peak with 2012.  The writer appears to have taken this quote out of context to give the impression that the Arena is bringing in more money than in 2010 – but with one third fewer attendees. Since the Chiefs and Shock account for about 364,000 fans per year (more than half of the 2012 attendance), and they attract a mostly local crowd, this means locals account for a larger percentage of attendance than in 2010 during the national skating event. And that means less outside money is coming to town. Local money is mostly re-arranging spending from one local place to another.

We also see the drop in out of town visitors in the airport’s passenger usage trend – note the local peaks in 2007 and 2010 (Dec and Jan now show year over year increases and the recent trend may have bottomed):

2013NovSIA

The SR’s story reinforces a major point of this blog – distortion and exaggeration remain alive and well!

We were about to make some posts about the Spokesman-Review recently descending into propaganda mode, but they just made the point for us!  The SR scored their “own goal” by scoring a point for the other team :) Hilariously funny. 

The end of the story hints at what’s coming: the Arena is 18 years old and the PFD will need taxpayers to build an even bigger arena in spite of declining attendance. This propaganda piece is battle space preparation.

Can you guess which two years are the only years for which Arena economic impact studies were done? This is really hard but try to guess :)

Update: Like yesterday, a clarification based on feedback. This is not about whether there should be an Arena, or whether it is good for Spokane, or about taxpayer funding. This post is about:

  • Why is the decline in attendance at the Arena and other PFD facilities deliberately hidden from the public by the local press? (Today’s news story confirms this is deliberately hidden.)
  • What steps are management taking to reverse the attendance decline?

State legislature votes to defund Spokane-based Innovate Washington

Innovate Washington is the successor to SIRTI. It was largely defunded last year but continues on in a zombie state.

The House voted unanimously to end Innovate Washington by June of 2015. The Senate already voted in favor of a similar measure so presumably the differences between the two bills now get ironed out and finalized.

This blog has written extensively about SIRTI, its history, and its Board structure that had become disconnected from its mission du jour. SIRTI then evolved to become Innovate Washington and thence Zombie Innovate Washington.

Update: The Legislature has approved the shut down of the Spokane-based Innovate Washington agency effective June 2015 and the Governor signed the legislation. By law, Innovate Washington will be shut down.  The building IW partially occupies will be turned over to WSU-Spokane.

Spokane County employment data

Not Adjusted raw data and chart

Data from US Bureau of Labor Statistics

NotAdjChart

NotAdjData

Seasonally Adjusted data and chart

AdjChart

AdjData

Non-Farm Employment remains at about the 2005-2006 level with slow growth whether we use raw data or adjusted data. In the first chart, above, the 2nd peak for 2013 remains below the first peak. This lower second peak has been an indicator of a slowing job market in Spokane County in the past. We will not know if this is the case until much later in 2014 and perhaps it only indicates a temporary slowdown.

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