Western Insights: Washington State Economic Forecast

Close  up of digital reader board with statistics and numbers

Friday, December 4, 2020
10:00 a.m. Pacific Time




Check out this video to watch the Western Insights: Washington State Economic Forecast

Everyone is eager to put 2020 behind them — but what might 2021 have in store?

These are difficult times for economic forecasting, yet having a good forecast is vital. Businesses have to decide when and how much to invest. Policy makers need to consider the influence of debt and when tax revenues might accelerate.

Will 2021 bring a return to normal? Or have things changed in fundamental ways? Perhaps a significant number of people will continue to work from home, changing the demand for commercial real estate and traffic patterns?

We will begin this episode of Western Insights with the latest summary forecast for Washington State presented by Steve Lerch, Chief Economist and Executive Director of the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Western Economics faculty members Sharon Shewmake and Hart Hodges will talk with Steve about the challenges in constructing a forecast amidst a pandemic and what business managers and policy makers should consider when using an economic forecast right now.

  • How do you construct a forecast when your normal data inputs are out of date by the time they are available?
  • How do you incorporate epidemiological data into economic forecasts... and the different ways people are responding to information about the pandemic?
  • Political polls have been particularly "off" lately. Any reason to think economic forecasts are going to be any more accurate?

Western Insights is an online panel series created in response to COVID-19 to provide the broader region, Western alumni, friends, and students with access to information on current events drawing from the University’s nationally respected experts. This free series is offered entirely online and is open to everyone.

Watch previous Western Insight sessions online at https://alumni.wwu.edu/past-events.

Stephen Lerch

Stephen Lerch

Guest Speaker

Stephen Lerch is the chief economist and executive director of the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. 

Previously, he has worked as an economist and researcher on public finance and health care issues in government (U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on Taxation; Washington State Department of Revenue) and the private sector (HCIA-Sachs).  

Most recently, he held the position of Research Director at the Washington State Investment Board. He has a Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University. 

Hart Hodges

Dr. Hart Hodges


Dr. Hart Hodges is Co-Director of Western's Center for Economic and Business Research. He received his Ph.D. in Economics in 1994 from the University of Washington. He joined the faculty at Western in the Fall of 2000. His research interests include natural resource and environmental economics, health economics, and applied business economics. Hart is currently managing several research projects and public service efforts with an emphasis on economic development.

Sharon Shewmake

Dr. Sharon Shewmake


Dr. Sharon Shewmake is both a professor at WWU and Washington State Representative from Whatcom County where she is Vice Chair of the Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources committee, and sits on the Energy and Environment and Transportation committees. Dr. Shewmake received her Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Davis and her bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Policy and Economics from Duke University.

Dr. Shewmake also sits on the COVID economic recovery group in the Washington State legislature and her research examines how our transportation and housing decisions impact the environment. She has examined the implication of policies meant to reduce air pollution and congestion such as High Occupancy Vehicle lanes and how consumers respond to environmental labels including labels for agricultural products.

Questions and Accommodations

James McCafferty is the contact for this event. Feel free to email James at mccaffj@wwu.edu or call (360) 650-2414 if you have any questions or comments.

There will be auto-captions available for this event. To request closed captions, please mark the request on the registration form. Advance notice of three days to one week is appreciated.