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The first positive variance

Budget people in Washington state have become accustomed to delivering and receiving bad news about the state’s economy, and not only that – accustomed to it being worse than they’d originally predicted.

Now, possibly, a turnaround.

Arun Raha, the state economist long nicknamed “Dr. Doom” for his bad news, today told the Senate Economic Development, Trade and Innovation Committee that his new numbers are “the first time we have a positive variance since I have been chasing the numbers down for a year and a half.”

His new report includes a variety of new nuggets backing that up. Such as:

“Holiday sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas grew a higher than expected 3.6% over last year‟s dismal numbers . . . Now that growth in output has returned, the attention is increasingly on when we
can expect job growth to resume. Over the last month the evidence has continued to mount that a turning point in jobs is near. . . . Following the national trend, the number of new car and truck registrations in Washington rebounded to 15,600 (SAAR) in December from 12,100 in November. Excluding the months that were boosted by cash for clunkers, this is the highest sales rate for cars and trucks since October 2008. . . . The National Association of Purchasing Managers Western Washington Index has now been above 50 for the last five months. Values above 50 indicate expansion while values below 50 indicate contraction. This suggests that the state’s manufacturing sector is turning around. . . . [State] Revenue from the December 11, 2009 – January 10, 2010 period surprised on the upside, with positive variances in both Revenue Act and non-Revenue Act revenue.”

Employment is still lousy, and none of this takes Washington state finances very far out of the hole. But it does suggest some light in the darkness.

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