Whidbey Economy Reality

Whidbey Island’s economy is all about the Navy and tourism. Right? Well, maybe not. Don’t you just hate it when you lose a link? A few days ago a US Federal database was released that quantified “Coastal Economy – Shoreline Counties”, which includes Island County, of course. Where’d that link go (buried here?) There are good reasons to believe the database doesn’t include the military component of the economy (a topic of great discussion that has no definitive answer – or has too many definitive answers, but not something everyone agrees on.) The report does report on almost a dozen sectors and their economic size. Surprises are available.

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Here’s what they measured:

  • Trade, Transportation, and Utilities
  • Public Administration
  • Professional and Business Services
  • Natural Resources and Mining
  • Manufacturing
  • Leisure and Hospitality
  • Information
  • Education and Health Services
  • Financial Activities
  • Construction
  • Other Services

And here’s how they measured them:

  • Establishments
  • Employment
  • Wages
  • GDP

Play around with ranking and sorting and – 

Who has the most establishments?

Of the 1969 establishments, the top 3 are: 

  • Education and Health Services 22.7%
  • Trade, Transportation, and Utilities 15.8%
  • Professional and Business Services 15.5%

That’s about four people per establishment, possibly a lot of small businesses. None of the stereotypical businesses, unless financing for retirees falls into that third category.

Who employs the most people?

Of the 14892 employees, the top 3 categories are:

  • Education and Health Services 26.4%
  • Trade, Transportation, and Utilities 19.9%
  • Leisure and Hospitality 16.6%

There’s the same top two, but here is finally tourism. About 1 in 6 people work with tourism, but that’s fewer than the over 1 in 4 in teaching and healing; or the 1 in 5 in basics like utilities.

Where do most of the wages go?

Of the $539,697,992 (over a half a billion dollars), the top 3 are:

  • Education and Health Services 27.1%
  • Trade, Transportation, and Utilities 17.8%
  • Public Administration 13.6%

Those top two are looking very familiar. Working for the government seems to be a good place for a (relatively) nice salary.

Which contributes most to the Gross Domestic Product?

Of the GDP’s $1,386,484,377, the top three are:

  • Public Administration 31.1%
  • Trade, Transportation, and Utilities 16.9%
  • Financial Activities 10.1%

The only sector that shows up in all four measures is Trade, Transportation, and Utilities, a sector that is easy to overlook but that is essential to the rest of the work getting done.

Education and Health Services shows up in three of the four, but when it does, it is number one. Lots of activity, but somehow not being measured in GDP. Teachers and doctors may not be measured, but without them there’d be no economy.

Showing up twice is Public Administration. It almost pays the most, but Information jobs top it by about $10,000, even though Info jobs are less than 2% in every category.

Showing up only once are Financial Activities and Leisure and Hospitality, and when they show up it is in third place. So much for stereotypes. 

The ones that don’t rank are: 

  • Natural Resources and Mining – Naturally considering there isn’t much to mine, here.
  • Manufacturing – Boat builders and others do what they can, but ferries and bridges may get in the way of others.
  • Construction – Anyone want to comment on the need or desire for more housing?
  • Other Services – Poor Other, usually left alone.

Data can be dull, but data don’t care about perceptions, don’t make judgments, and don’t get into arguments. We might, but the numbers sit there waiting for us to do something with them. At least they can show what’s really going on – and not. What’s Whidbey’s economy really about? Well, there are surprises to ponder.