Thurston County taxable retail sales rose 10 percent in the first quarter of the year, a sign that the economic recovery is well underway.
That’s according to the state Department of Revenue, which released retail sales numbers for the state and its counties this month. Statewide, retail sales rose 9 percent to about $30 billion from the same period in 2014, driven higher in part by sales of new and used vehicles.
Retail sales generated by sales of new and used vehicles rose 11.6 percent in the year-over-year first-quarter period, the statewide data show.
That played out in Thurston County, too, where retail sales of new and used vehicles rose by about the same amount. Construction projects also helped lift the county’s retail numbers.
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More specifically, retail sales generated by new and used vehicles rose to $96.1 million in the first quarter from $84.8 million in the same quarter a year ago, the data show. Retail sales generated by construction in the same period rose to $131.8 million from $104.2 million.
Most car sales in the county take place at the Olympia Auto Mall, a collection of dealerships in west Olympia. As for construction, key projects in the county have included the market-rate apartment building in downtown Olympia and the new Lacey campus of South Puget Sound Community College.
And both Olympia and Lacey will continue to benefit from construction: A new building on Capitol Way will eventually be home to the Washington State Patrol and state Office of Financial Management, while a new middle school is under construction in Lacey for North Thurston Public Schools.
Here’s the overall retail sales growth for the county and its largest cities, year-over-year for the first quarter:
▪ Thurston County: Rose 9.8 percent to $997.6 million from $908.4 million.
▪ Olympia: Rose 9 percent to $442.8 million from $406.1 million.
▪ Lacey: Rose 12.3 percent to $235.3 million from $209.5 million.
▪ Tumwater: Rose 9.7 percent to $113.6 million from $103.5 million.
▪ Yelm: Rose 8.5 percent to $42.6 million from $39.2 million.
The state Department of Revenue also releases a separate category of retail sales data that reflects consumer purchases. Here’s how the county and its largest cities did:
▪ Thurston County: Rose 7.5 percent to $516.7 million from $480.6 million.
▪ Olympia: Rose 7.6 percent to $239.2 million from $222.5 million.
▪ Lacey: Rose 6.6 percent to $131.6 million from $123.5 million.
▪ Tumwater: Rose 5.3 percent to $59.4 million from $56.4 million.
▪ Yelm: Rose 6.1 percent to $25.4 million from $23.9 million.
Beyond the first quarter, new and used car sales, plus construction, has helped retail sales rise by 4 percent through August, said Jane Kirkemo, finance director for the city of Olympia.
“We’re still in a recovery phase, but it’s much better than last year,” said Kirkemo, adding that the Olympia Auto Mall means a lot for the city and its coffers, representing about 8 percent of sales taxes to the city.
Note: Due to rounding, percentage change figures may not exactly match those released by the state.