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Puget Sound economy bouncing back faster than the U.S.

There have been a few glimmers of hope lately for the U.S. economy, such as a better-than-expected jobs report. But local economist Dick Conway  says there’s even more reason for optimism for the Puget Sound region. 

For more than 30 years, Conway has been analyzing Washington’s economy for local governments and private companies. He follows everything from help-wanted ads and housing permits to how many planes are in Boeing’s backlog. He says the Puget Sound regional economy is staging a better comeback than the country as a whole and he’s even more optimistic now than at the beginning of the year.

One reason is Boeing’s strength. The local aerospace industry has added 10,000 new jobs since 2009. He says that ripples out through the economy, generating an additional 15,000 jobs as those aerospace workers spend their money.

And Conway says the fact that home prices are rising again gives him even more hope.

"It seems to me that we’re set up for a real strong housing recovery and in that case, the rather optimistic forecasts we’re still making about local employment growth could well be on the low side," Conway said.

As the housing market revives, some of the 50,000 local construction jobs that were lost in the recession will come back.

Conway says the Puget Sound region is adding back jobs at about twice the rate of the U.S. as a whole. That’s due in part to strong exports of things like airplanes and software.

Exports to Europe, though, could be at risk if their economy gets a lot worse. Conway says he is still holding his breath a bit, but for the last couple of years, things have turned out better than he forecast.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.