Recently one of my clients forwarded an article to me about unemployment in their area. The gist of the article was that jobless claims are up in the Kennewick area.
When the contents of this article hit my client’s marketplace (Kennewick, a town in Eastern Washington), he told me the article had people so concerned that it felt as though the residents were running amok in the streets in fear of Godzilla. It was very much an atmosphere of doom, gloom, and fear.
As you can imagine, this made me absolutely crazy.
The whole picture of what’s happening in Kennewick is very different. In fact, Fiscal Times recently named Kennewick as the #1 city people are moving to in a recent article.
So here’s the question – what is the truth about the Kennewick area?
The article talking about increases in unemployment discounts – or completely ignores – the many other factors that make this area a phenomenal place to live. Great health care (three hospitals – and folks, that also translates into great employment opportunities). Wonderful weather (300 days of sunshine each year!). Superb wineries (which support a $350 million tourism industry). Fantastic opportunities for outdoor recreation.
And there are employment opportunities in the area. Don’t let one media source fool you into thinking the area is sinking into a huge recession. Yes, employment is an important indicator of a community’s health. But it’s only one measure of the desirability of any given area. And of course, employment fluctuates over time. It’s not a static measure of an area’s performance. Before you panic based on one measure of economic health it’s important to take a more global look – one that includes other measures of performance.
Actually, the article about Kennewick reminds me of an article written about the Seattle real estate market a couple of years ago, when it was reported that the area had record low rates of depreciation. Yes – home prices did depreciate in Seattle, just as they did in almost every community across the country. What the article didn’t report was that, since 1976, homes in the Pacific Northwest have appreciated an average of 6.9% per year. So let’s put that article in perspective. Many years of strong appreciation, followed by a year or two (or even three or four) of depreciation still equals a good thing. In fact, a very good thing.
In Kennewick, unemployment claims are up. But I think the reporter hurriedly glossed over the fact that unemployment numbers were lower in this area for several years due to the enormous amount of stimulus money eastern Washington communities received as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Prominently featured was a story about a woman, aged 62, who has been out of the work force since she last worked as a nanny – 11 years ago. The reality is that anyone who has been out of the work force for over a decade would likely struggle to find work in most communities in the United States today. Using this woman’s story to make an emotional point about employment opportunities in Kennewick is an example of the kind of bias in reporting that tugs at readers’ emotions rather than allowing them to assess the situation based on the facts.
In time, no one will remember this one biased article about Kennewick. It will fade away, and likely will be forgotten.
What won’t fade away are the fundamental attributes of Kennewick. It is a thriving and growing community. I’ve long said that this part of Eastern Washington will continue to grow at a healthy pace. It simply has too much going for it… and with housing very reasonably priced, homeowners get real value for their housing dollar.
If I was a betting person, I’d be “all in” on the future of Kennewick.
Next time you read an article that predicts gloom and doom based on one or more factors, I encourage you do look at the numbers carefully before buying in to the hysteria. Do a little research of your own to uncover mitigating factors.
More importantly, I hope that you will challenge the information. Touch base with the reporter and ask questions. Write to the editor and share your point of view, backed up with data you may have. It’s important for every one of us to take action when we discover inaccuracies in reporting.
Do you have a favorite “scare story” that you read about your area? I’d love to hear it!