Retail sales decline in county hits 2 years

Overall taxable retail sales in Thurston County fell in the fourth quarter of 2009, the eighth consecutive quarter in which the county has experienced a decline in consumer and business spending, the state Department of Revenue said.

Some cities in the county, however, showed an improving trend in the year-over-year fourth-quarter taxable retail sales data released this week.

Statewide taxable retail sales fell 6.3 percent in the year-over-year fourth-quarter period, largely because of the slower construction industry. Revenue spokesman Mike Gowrylow said Thursday that the construction industry typically represents 20 percent of taxable retail sales in the state.

Thurston County taxable retail sales also fell, but not as sharply, down 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter to $967.8 million from $984.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Here’s how the county’s largest cities did in the same period:

 • Olympia: Taxable retail sales rose 4.54 percent to $442.9 million from $423.6 million

 • Lacey: Fell 6.84 percent to $243.2 million from $261.1 million

 • Tumwater: Rose 2.32 percent to $104.1 million from $101.7 million

 • Yelm: Fell 11.8 percent to $36.7 million from $41.7 million

The state also reports a separate category of taxable retail sales called retail trade, which includes retailers but excludes industries such as services and construction. The data show:

 • Olympia: Fell 1.78 percent to $221.7 million from $225.7 million

 • Lacey: Rose 4.11 percent to $159.4 million from $153.1 million

 • Tumwater: Rose 2.43 percent to $52.3 million from $51.1 million

 • Yelm: Rose 1.78 percent to $23.1 million from $22.7 million

A closer look at the data shows that Olympia benefited from car sales and the construction industry in the fourth quarter, with taxable retail sales in both categories rising 2.6 percent and 19 percent, respectively. The slower construction industry in Lacey, however, sent taxable retail sales tumbling, down 50 percent to $22.7 million from $45.5 million, the data show.

In Tumwater, taxable retail sales generated by the manufacturing industry fell 19 percent. Although the state does not disclose retail sales by a specific business, the downturn in manufacturing likely is the result of the closure of the Albany International plant on Littlerock Road. It closed in August, and 32 employees were laid off.

“The recovery in Washington’s economy is ongoing, but it will be slow and uneven in 2010, gathering momentum in 2011,” Chief Economist Arun Raha said in a recent monthly economic and revenue update. Raha could not be reached Thursday.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403