Economy slowing, still growing

Associated Press

ELLENSBURG — The Northwest’s hot economy in the 1990s, driven in many cases by the high-tech industry, will continue to grow in the early 2000s but at a slower pace, regional forecasters say.

That tracks with the national economic forecast.

"Will we have a recession next year? Absolutely not," said economist Donald Ratajczak, founder of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University. "In 2002? Probably not … it will stall rather than fall."

Ratajczak and members of the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Council were among speakers Wednesday at the 2000 Economic Outlook Conference at Central Washington University.

In Washington, much of the state’s economy is driven by Boeing and Microsoft, both of which tend to skew a lot of statistics for the state overall.

Excluding the software industry, the state’s average wage growth through 2003 is forecast at 3 percent to 4 percent, said Bret Bertolin, the state’s senior economic forecaster.

"Growth in software salaries has been extraordinary," in part because of the demand for high-quality employees, but primarily because Microsoft employees have been exercising their stock options, he said.

The average annual wage in the software business is more than $406,000, compared with $63,000 in the aerospace industry and $28,000 for public school employees.

Software accounts for $11 billion in total wages in the state, compared with $5 billion in aerospace and almost $4 million in public schools. But the software industry employs only about 27,000 people compared, with almost 83,000 in the aircraft industry and almost 140,000 in education.

Tom Potiowsky of the Oregon state Office of Economic Analysis said high-tech growth will pick up in his state, with companies such as Intel, Oregon’s largest employer with 16,000 workers, planning to add as many as 6,600 more jobs in the next 15 years.

Idaho is the second-fastest-growing state in the West, behind only Arizona, for creation of jobs with an employment growth rate of 4 percent, said Michael Ferguson, chief economist for Idaho’s Economic Analysis Bureau.

Employment growth should continue for the remainder of the year and then begin to trail off toward the 2 percent rate beginning next year, he said.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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