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Economy

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners recently voted to award Visit Kitsap Peninsula (VKP), the county’s tourism agency, a two-year contract for regionwide tourism marketing services.

“When so many initiatives are happening in our community to develop the tourism economy, now is the time to provide stability in funding for marketing our region and communities. It’s not a time to retract, but to charge forward with a plan of attack to increase our share of the tourism market,” Commissioner Rob Gelder said in a news release sent out by Visit Kitsap Peninsula.

The county’s approval of a two-year contract comes on the heels of the Bremerton City Council’s decision withhold a $20,000 allocation of the city’s lodging tax funds to Visit Kitsap. The $20,000 allocation was among the recommendations from the city’s lodging tax advisory committee. read more »

 

WASHINGTON — After six years of a gloomy recession and shaky recovery, the U.S. economy looks poised to regain its glow next year with stronger job growth, bigger income gains for more people and a resurgence of homeowners moving up into new digs.

The overall economic outlook for the U.S. has improved sharply in recent weeks amid a string of surprisingly robust economic data: Businesses have stepped up hiring, new factory orders from abroad are at a two-year high, and consumers have been flocking to car lots and restaurants.

State and local governments that not long ago were in massive retrenchment are spending more too.

“We could see the unemployment rate down to 6 percent this time next year,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. read more »

 

OLYMPIA — In a survey last spring, Washington employers reported they expect to nearly double their job openings by spring 2014.

According to the Employment Security Department’s 2013 Spring Job-Vacancy and Hiring Survey Report, job vacancies in Washington increased by 63 percent, from nearly 52,000 in spring 2012 to more than 85,000 in spring 2013.

More than two-thirds of the 2013 vacancies were in the west urban area of the state. Also, 26 percent of the total vacancies were newly created positions, compared with 22 percent a year earlier. More than three-fourths of the total vacancies were permanent positions. read more »

 

The higher tax rates passed by Congress this year have some top earners seeking last-minute strategies to lower their tax bite as year-end calculations turn up unpleasant surprises.

“There are many, many high-income taxpayers now who are finding themselves facing tax rates in excess of 50 percent,” said Suzanne Shier, a tax strategist and director of wealth planning at Chicago-based Northern Trust. “That really gets their attention.”

High earners are seeing a combination of federal tax increases for 2013: a top marginal rate of 39.6 percent, up from 35 percent; a 20 percent tax on long-term capital gains and dividends, up from 15 percent; and a new 3.8 percent tax on investment income. Also, limits on exemptions and deductions are taking effect. read more »

 

Population and Sales 2013OLYMPIA — Taxable retail sales statewide in the second quarter of 2013 jumped 8.3 percent over the same period in 2012, according to a report released by the Washington State Department of Revenue. Total taxable retail sales between April 1 and June 30 reached $29 billion.

Retail trade during this year’s second quarter hit $13.1 billion, a 7.3 percent increase from the second quarter of 2012. Retail trade is a subset of total taxable retail sales, which includes retailers but excludes industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and construction. read more »

 

OLYMPIA — More than 80 percent of Washington employers will have lower or stable unemployment tax rates in 2014 compared with 2013, according to the state’s Employment Security Department.

Of the roughly 170,000 taxable employers, 29 percent will move into lower rate classes and 53 percent will remain in the same rate class as 2013. Another 18 percent will enter a higher rate class due to their layoff history over the past four years.

By comparison, in 2013, 14 percent of employers moved into lower rate classes, 61 percent stayed the same and 25 percent paid higher rates.

“The tide is turning, and we’re seeing a larger number of companies moving back down the rate ladder,” said Employment Security Commissioner Dale Peinecke. “That’s a very positive sign.” read more »

 
Tax Planning

Now that another year is ending, it’s a good time to take stock of where you are on your journey toward financial security. Of course, you could find many different “measuring sticks” to assess your progress, but you can certainly gain considerable information just by asking yourself some basic questions.

Here are a few to consider:

How close am I to my retirement goals? Your comprehensive investment strategy should include a reasonably good estimate of how much money you will eventually need to sustain the retirement lifestyle you’ve envisioned. At least once a year, you should evaluate how much closer you’ve gotten to your goals than the year before.

Am I making sufficient progress toward my goals? When assessing your progress, try to determine if your portfolio is properly allocated between stocks, stock-based vehicles, bonds, government securities, certificates of deposit and other investments. read more »

 

Wall Street Journal Real Time Economics blog

The November jobs report showed steady employment growth as 2013 draws to a close. U.S. payrolls rose by 203,000 last month and the unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent, the lowest level in five years. Here are highlights:

•  Revisions: Employment gains for October and September were revised upward slightly by a total of 8,000. Employers added 200,000 jobs in October, down from an initially reported 204,000. But September’s gain was revised up to 175,000 from 163,000.

•  Jobless Rate: The November unemployment rate decreased to 7.0% from 7.3%, below economists’ expectation of 7.2%, because more people joined the workforce and fewer people lost their jobs. The rate had risen slightly in October because government workers were furloughed during the 16-day partial government shutdown. read more »

 

PR Newswire

SEATTLE — Online real estate marketplace Zillow is making four bold housing predictions for 2014, and has determined which housing markets will be the hottest next year.

The 2014 predictions:

  • U.S. home values will increase by 3 percent.
  • Mortgage rates will reach 5 percent by the end of the year.
  • It will be easier for borrowers to get a mortgage in 2014.
  • Homeownership rates will fall to their lowest point in nearly two decades.

To determine which markets will be the hottest in 2014, Zillow combined data on unemployment rates, population growth and the Zillow Home Value Forecast. The list is intended to give an early view into housing markets that are likely to experience heavy demand for homes, as well as increasing home values. read more »

 
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