The Washington Roundtable today released updated “Benchmarks for a Better Washington,” an evaluation of the state’s economic vitality measured against 12 key indicators. The Benchmarks were introduced in 2011 as part of an effort, in the wake of the Great Recession, to define a positive long-term vision for Washington state.

“The Benchmark effort sets goals for what a better Washington looks like and measures progress over time,” said Steve Mullin, Washington Roundtable president. “We believe a better state is one that is top 10 for quality of life and innovation – education, transportation and job creation – and, at the same time, is not one of the most expensive states in which to do business. Washington has to compete on quality and on cost.”

The 2012 data highlight some bright spots for innovation, but underscore the need to improve on quality of life indicators, particularly education achievement.

• The private sector is showing signs of recovery with Washington ranking 8th in the percentage of private sector job growth, year-over-year.
• The state continues to be a leader in patent generation, ranking 5th nationally.
• Despite having one of the most innovation-dependent economies in the nation, Washington ranks 38th in bachelor’s degrees awarded per capita.
• Washington’s K-12 education system does not compare well against other states. The state ranks 37th in high school graduation rates, 21st in student achievement in science and 12th in student achievement in math.

The report also shows that Washington also has significant ground to make up to crack the top 10 in transportation rankings.

• Washington continues to rank 16th in the nation for road conditions and 42nd for bridge conditions.
• Washington improved in average commute times, moving to 37th this year.

In terms of business costs, the Roudtable believes the state continues to enjoy the benefits of hydroelectric resources, ranking 1st in the nation with the lowest commercial and industrial electricity rates. However, Washington continues to rank among the 10 most expensive states for unemployment insurance (UI) tax rates and workers’ compensation benefits paid. UI and workers’ compensation reforms enacted in 2011 should lead to improvements over time.