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What the data says about how we are doing in Washington State

In 2020, the Census Bureau’s began collecting large data sets in its new Pulse survey tool. This was serendipitously timed to very near the start of the pandemic.

The consequence is that we have a unique set of data to understand how we are feeling in Washington State, and how we compare to the rest of the country.

It’s clear that individuals and households are struggling, according to the data.

During the period from December 9 to December 21, among the more than 5.7m respondents in Washington State, 12.8% had a “very difficult” time paying “usual household expenses.” Another 16.3% had a “somewhat difficult” time paying these expenses, while 21.3% had “a little difficult” time with paying their usual expenses.

Taken together, that means slightly more than half of Washington State residents are facing some level of difficulty just paying their “usual household expenses.”

A look at employment and household income tells the story of why.

Among those responding, 2.76m Washington residents said they had “Experienced loss of employment income since March 13, (for self or household member).”

That is 47%, an almost inconceivably high number.

About the future, 26.7% of state residents fear an “Expected loss of employment income in the next 4-weeks (for self or household member).”

That number would normally be shockingly high if not for the previous number cited.

It’s clear this financial insecurity is weighing on folks.

In the data, 10.1% of 4.9m respondents in Washington State received mental health therapy in the last seven days. Another 14.9% said they needed therapy but were unable to get access to it.

A full 56% said they experienced “feeling down, depressed or hopeless” between “several days” in the last week and “nearly every¬†day.”¬†

The bleakness of the household data makes the otherwise bleak data from small businesses look somewhat better.

At the first of May, 2020, small businesses in Washington State were hurting. Only 49.6% had more than 1 month of cash reserves. Almost one in five (19.5%) had fourteen days or less of cash on hand.

By late June, as relief funds from Congress made their way into the economy, 63.5% of small businesses had one month or more of cash on hand. 13.1% of small businesses had less than two weeks of reserves.

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Since that high point in late June, the position of small businesses has degraded somewhat. As of January 10th, 54.6% of Washington small businesses had one month or more of reserves, while 14.8% had two weeks or less of cash on hand.

While small business data may have stabilized somewhat, the stress is likely to continue to build.

According to the Alignable January Rent Poll, 34% of Washington small businesses could not make their rent in the month of January.

The data reflects what is likely to have been a traumatizing year for many in Washington State in 2020. Whether 2021 is better may be both a function of policy engagement and the level of community resiliency to continue to navigate this pandemic era.


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