As is generally the case, a recent snapshot of national, regional and local economic indicators provided good news tempered with caution and concern.
The good news, according to Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner, is that the economy will continue to grow over the next couple of years. More than two million jobs have been added this year and consumer confidence remains high, he said.
Gardner, who delivered his state-of-the-economy address at a recent breakfast hosted by the Port of Chelan County, also warned that the U.S. will likely face a recession in 18 months, somewhere toward the end of 2019 and into 2020.
"Be prepared," he said. "It won't be nearly as severe as our last recession; probably something like we saw in 1991."
He also expressed concern over looming trade wars with China and others. "Nobody wins a trade war," Gardner said. He noted that China was Washington state's largest export country. "Thirteen percent of our goods go there," he said. "Those goods include aircraft from Boeing, soybeans, wheat and corn."
Gardner also warned that affordable housing is becoming a greater problem as home prices in many parts of the state (including Wenatchee) are appreciating at nearly 10 percent while wages are growing at less than 3 percent.
"Home prices should actually track inflation (maybe 3 percent), but are outpacing wages by a good margin," Gardner told the breakfast crowd of 100 or so mostly business people. He said it would be increasingly difficult to attract employers if their employees can't afford to live here.
"We aren't building enough homes to keep up with the demand," he said. "That's mostly due to the high cost of land, permits, labor and materials."
Gardner also noted that: