Chelan-Douglas Trends Newsletter 2019 Q3


Bentonville Conference on American Life: County Archetype View

Preparing a Local Workforce to Meet Future Demands

Chelan-Douglas Trends Staff

If you ask 10 different people how they feel about Walmart as a company or community partner, chances are you’ll get 10 different answers. Walmart represents a dichotomy of a large retailer offering lower prices vs. a large retailer putting small businesses at risk.

Chances are also unlikely you’ve heard of some of the research Walmart produces.

The inaugural Bentonville Conference on American Life sponsored by Walmart, created an interactive map of the U.S. distinguishing eight different county archetypes: Urban Centers and Core Suburbs; Urban Periphery; Smaller Independent Counties; Americana; Distressed Americana; Rural Service Hubs; Great Escapes; and Resource-Rich Regions. The map offers an archetype for every county in the U.S.

Each archetype has specific action items attached offering ways to maintain and attract new businesses and industries, as well as preparing a local workforce to better meet future demands of local economies. 

The archetype for both the counties of Chelan and Douglas is a “Smaller Independent Economies”, joining Benton, Franklin, Skagit, Spokane, Walla Walla, Whatcom, and Yakima Counties as the other counties in Washington State with this archetype. According to the report, “Smaller Independent Economies” should focus on: 

  • Enhancing white-collar skills demanded of the 21st Century economy;
  • Invest in “Quality of Life” measures to attract and retain ‘new economy workers’;
  • Leverage existing knowledge working skill base to attract new employers;
  • Promote entrepreneurship by easing regulations on launching a business.



Your Location and Lifespan

U.S. Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimates Project

Chelan-Douglas Trends Staff

It’s been duly noted three of the biggest words in business are: location, location, and location. From one location to the next, differences can sometimes be drastic, even when two locations are within close proximity to each other.

Every indicator on the Chelan-Douglas Trends website tells us something about our location and how it affects us.  But what about data for locations smaller than counties and cities? Zip-code and census tract-level data are becoming more and more available, but the smaller the surveyed population, the greater the margin of error.

The U.S. Census defines a census tract as a “small, relatively permanent statistical subdivision of a county” with an average of approximately 4,000 residents each.

What can local census tract-level data tell me about where I live compared to people a few blocks away, or on the other side of a river?

The U.S. Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimates, a project partnership between the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, can estimate how long you will live based on where you live.

Entering any physical street address will bring up census tract-level data, so using the addresses for the City of Wenatchee (301 Yakima St, Wenatchee, WA 98801) and the City of East Wenatchee (271 9th St. N.E. East Wenatchee, WA 98802), the life expectancy is as follows: 

  • City of Wenatchee = 78.50 years.
  • City of East Wenatchee = 79.50 years.
  • Chelan County = 80.29 years.
  • Douglas County = 80.56 years.
  • Washington State = 80.20 years.
  • The U.S. = 78.60 years.



Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Jobs

Job Destruction vs. Occupational Changes

Chelan-Douglas Trends Staff

Sometimes it might seem like most jobs are, or will eventually be, susceptible to replacement by automation. Experts already predict the top-3 industries susceptible to automation over the next decade are “production”, “food service” and “transportation”.

In a report by Brookings titled Automation and Artificial Intelligence: How Machines are Affecting People and Places suggests, “automation will bring neither apocalypse nor utopia, but instead both benefits and stress alike.”

Examining the known impacts of automation on jobs from 1980 to 2016, Brookings makes predictions for 2016 to 2030. Instead of net job gains or losses, the report “focuses on areas of potential occupational change”.

The long-haul trucking industry still moves the majority of materials and consumer goods across the country. According to RTS Financial, there are currently “more than 1.7 million heavy-duty and tractor-trailer truck driving jobs” in the U.S. During 2016, commercial truckers moved 10.42 billion tons of freight across our nation and a “trucker driver” was still the most common job in 29 U.S. states.  

The Forbes Technology Council has created a list of 13 different jobs they believe are most likely to be replaced by automation/ Highlights include: insurance underwriting, warehouse & manufacturing, research & data entry, local TV advertising, banking & retail checkout, fast food service, and of course, long haul trucking.

While not all at-risk jobs will disappear, some will, and it won’t be overnight. The ultimate sectors and the number of losses, only the future will tell. However, we do know how many people currently have jobs in sectors most susceptible to automation in the near future.

Looking at the 2018 annual employment averages offered by the Washington State Employment Security Department Covered Employment, during 2018 in Chelan and Douglas Counties combined, there were approximately:

  • 2,404 jobs in the “Manufacturing” sector (NAICS 2-digit 31-33), earning a total combined $106.8 million.
  • 733 jobs in the “Transportation and Warehousing” sector (NAICS 2-digit 48-49), earning a total combined $26.9 million.
    • The “Truck Transportation” sub-sector (NAICS 3-digit 484) held 184 jobs, earning a total combined $8.5 million.
  • 5,808 jobs in the “Accommodation and Food Services” sector (NAICS 2-digit 71-72), earning a total combined $123.9 million. 

Again, these are just predictions of a think-tank, but come as data-driven speculation. While losing millions of driving jobs will certainly affect future economies, it will undoubtedly decrease the number of fatal car accidents (40,000) and permanent injuries (2 million) caused each year in the U.S. by human operated motor vehicles. 


Rental Housing Affordability:

Stable and Outperforming the Region

by Brian Kennedy & Dr. Patrick Jones

There has been a lot of talk within the two counties, as well as across the state, that rents have continued to rise. While that certainly is the case, income in Chelan and Douglas Counties has kept pace; resulting in stable prices within the rental market in relation to household income.

Is housing become less affordable in Chelan and Douglas Counties? Affordability is typically indicated by shelter costs are at or below 30% of household income. Shelter costs cover not only rent but any utilities associated with renting such as water, sewer, or garbage. When rents are in this range, households are able to meet non-housing needs such as clothing, food, or other monthly bills all while still being able to save for a down payment in a future home purchase or other household emergencies. Anything over 30% is considered to be a housing cost burden and anything over 50% is a severe housing cost burden. Trend 6.2.5 depicts these critical cases, where renters are severely struggling to find any disposable income outside of costs of renting.

At first glance, this trend does look like a large increase in the total number of renting households allocating 50% to shelter costs occurred. From 2006 to 2018, the number of renters spending 50% or more of their income on shelter costs grew by just over one-thousand households, from 2,182 to 3,188. Yet a word of caution in interpretation. This finding is based on a survey, and the estimated increase is well within the margin of error. A statistical analysis shows that we can’t say there has been any significant change in the number of renting household with suffering from severe burden due to housing costs. This relationship can be further illustrated when looking at the share of renters falling into this category. While the total number jumped the share of renters stayed relatively stable, only increasing by less than half a percentage point since 2006.

So roughly 1-in-5 renting households is facing a severe housing cost burden, which sounds terrible. But renters in the combined counties are generally better off than state and national averages. The local rate sits 1.6 percentage points under the state and 4 percentage points under the national averages. Those gaps have characterized the three trends over the length of the Trend.

Additionally, to look at renting households less severely burdened but still feeling the pressures of high rents, consider Trend 6.2.4 showing those spending 30% on housing. Here we see that the combined counties are still outperforming the state and U.S. by just over 10 percentage points. Where one in three renting households feel constrained by housing costs locally, nearly half of all renting households are feeling that state and nationwide.

Comparing to the state, which is skewed by the west side, and the national rate, pulling towards the large population centers, aren’t always the best of benchmarks with issues such as rent, a highly localized market. However, when we consider just the Eastern Washington metro areas, a smaller share of renters in Chelan and Douglas Counties seem to be severely burdened by shelter costs.

All other Eastern Washington metro areas display higher shares of renters spending 50% or more of their income on shelter costs in 2018. Chelan and Douglas Counties sit about 2 percentage points lower than in Benton & Franklin Counties and Yakima CountySpokane County and Walla Walla County have the highest shares, roughly 4 and 9 percentage points higher than that observed locally.

To examine this down further using American Community Survey (U.S. Census), we can look at the situation of the “middle renter,” as expressed by median rent as a share of median household income for renting households in Eastern Washington metro areas. Here Chelan and Douglas Counties outperform the rest. At the median, rent takes up a smaller portion of household income, just 24%. The combined counties sit 4 percentage points lower than the next closest metro area, the Tri-Cities at 28%, and 8 percentage points lower than the highest, Walla Walla at 32%.

While the combined counties do have a comparatively low median household rent, median household income for renters in Chelan in Douglas County is the highest among the metros, nearly $10,000 more than Yakima, the lowest, and $3,000 higher than the Tri-Cities, the next closest.

So while this trend is showing growth in the total number of renters paying 50% or more of their income to shelter costs, the share is staying stable. Likewise, the share spending 30% or more seems to support a flat lining trend. While rents are increasing year after year, the comparative growth in median household income for renters in Chelan and Douglas Counties is substantially better than their Eastern Washington counterparts, fending off, thankfully for now, any increase in the share of renters severely burdened by shelter costs.


Average People per Household:

Typically does not change much, until a recent spike

by Scott Richter & Dr. Patrick Jones

The definition of a household hasn’t changed much over time. Meriam-Webster defines household as “a social unit composed of those living together in the same dwelling.” While the definition hasn’t changed, the average number of people per American household has.

The 1790 Census found there was an average of 5.79 persons per household in the U.S., steadily decreasing to 2.63 in 2018. For a variety of reasons, the decade ending in 2020 is on the verge of being the first in U.S. history to experience an increase, however, slight, in the average number of people per household.

A household includes everyone who occupies the housing unit as their regular residence. Members of a household are considered either “relatives” or “non-relatives”. Examples of non-relatives include roommates, boarders, and unmarried partners. There is only one householder per household, who typically is the person, or one of the persons, who owns or is buying / renting the housing unit.

People not considered members of a household include those living in dormitories, institutions (nursing homes, prisons), or military barracks.

While the Average Number of People per Household has changed very little over the of the series, we do see the combined counties are consistently a little higher than the state and U.S, until the past year 

More specifically during 2018, Chelan & Douglas Counties combined had an average of 2.47 people per household, compared to 2.55 in the state, and 2.63 in the U.S. The considerably lower value in 2018 for the two counties represents a statistically significant change from 2017. We are not quite sure why this occurred, and one year does not a trend make. The decline of household size was slightly more pronounced in Chelan than in Douglas County.

The smaller household size may be a bit influenced by the composition of in-migrants to the counties in 2018. As Net Migration Trend shows, 2018 represented the highest year for in-migrants since 1999, with most landing in Chelan County. Could it be that those calling the area their new home had smaller (or no) families? Another possible explanation may lie in the opening of new apartment units in the area in the past year or two. Nearly all of these are 1- or 2-bedroom units, not allowing for large families.

Smaller household size might also reflect the departure of young people from the area once their K-12 education is complete. Currently (2018), the share of those in the 18-34 age group is 18.7%, lowest on record. This is the lowest share among all of Eastern Washington metro areas. This is likely a result of a lower profile higher ed presence in the greater Wenatchee area as well as a higher percentage of empty nesters. Indicator 0.1.3, a type of a population pyramid shown over time, should make this clear.

We will need to see at least a couple more years with the two counties showing smaller household size before concluding that this is a trend. For now, it represents a big change in the perception of the area’s demographics.


Youth Ages 10-17 Arrests:

Decreasing trend for alcohol and other violations 

by Scott Richter & Dr. Patrick Jones

“When I was a kid, I had to walk 5-miles uphill to school – both ways” is just a funny way of pointing out differences from one era to the next. 

Considering what youth face today, compared to even a decade or two ago, there are both significantly different aspects (social media, opioids, methamphetamines), as well as pressures that have stayed pretty much the same (alcohol, tobacco, truancy).

Perhaps the largest example of change, both literally and figuratively, is the internet. On one side, the internet has provided easy access to information that certainly helps students with their academic work. On the other hand, social media has the potential to foster activities with repercussions making academic failure look tame.   

The Research and Data Analysis (RDA) Division of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Community Risk Profiles is a “comprehensive time-series collection of data related to substance use and abuse, and the risk factors that predict substance use among youth.”

Offered with directly comparable data for each county in Washington State, the RDA report provides statistical answers to questions about “youth substance abuse [and] other problem youth behaviors”. The ultimate goal of the RDA is to better understand “individual, family, school and community risk factors that can lead to youth substance abuse.”

The RDA doesn’t attempt to differentiate between the pressures youth faced previously that might have had a different effect on the statistical results. For example, the RDA did not change the definition of “a drug law violation arrest” when recreational marijuana became legal in Washington State potentially increasing access of marijuana to youth.

Looking at the Youth Arrested for an Alcohol Violation Trend, one can see that the rate in the combined counties was initially quite a bit higher than the state and national benchmarks. The series started in 1995 at 20.2 alcohol violation arrests per 1,000 youth ages 10-17; but by 2017, this had decreased to 2.7 in Chelan and Douglas Counties combined.

Generally, Douglas County has consistently had a lower rate than Chelan County, while the Cities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee are reflective of their respective county.

Overall, the decreasing trend in the combined counties follows suit with the state and nation, but the decreases are more significant locally. Youth in the combined counties (in this case 8th, 10th, and 12th graders) have self-reported through the Healthy Youth Survey they are using alcohol less frequently than previous 8th, 10th, and 12th graders

According to the Washington State Attorney General, a Minor in Possession (MIP) alcohol arrest can occur for possessing any amount of alcohol, but an arrest is warranted by state law “even if the person is not drinking or does not possess [alcohol, or] any illegal substance. Possession is defined as having alcohol anywhere around you.”

While all youth alcohol violations are potentially serious, the majority of arrests are for either possession and consumption violations. Any alcohol violation committed by youth between the ages of 13 & 17, can result in losing their driver’s license until they turn 17, or for a year – whichever turns out to be the longest period of time.

Parallel trends are  the arrest rate per 1,000 youth ages 10-17 for property and violent crimes. Both declined significantly. The youth arrest rate for a drug crime decreased by only 0.7 from 2002 to 2017, still  more than twice the state rate.

Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Violent crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Drug crimes include sale, manufacturing, and possession.

What to make, then of significantly arrests for alcohol? There could be many causes – greater education and prevention efforts, a switch to marijuana, greater enforcement at the point of sale, higher amount of time spent online and a general change of values toward drinking within families. Whatever the reasons, the trend is a welcome one.