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Spokane’s Cost of Living Index Drops Below 100

By Gary Ballew, CEcD, VP of Economic Development, Greater Spokane Inc. and
Joey Gunning, Strategic Growth Manager, Greater Spokane Inc.

We all know the cost of living has gone up the last several years. We see it in the newspaper as well as at the grocery store checkout. But does it cost more to live in Spokane than say Boise or the Tri-Cities? That’s not only an important question for our citizens and businesses, but for talented people and companies looking for a place to relocate or expand.

We have a tool that helps us answer that, it’s called the Cost of Living Index and GSI works with Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) to produce a Cost of Living Index (COLI).

C2ER obtains data on a ‘basket of goods’, which includes things like rental rates, price of homes, costs of certain medical procedures, various grocery items, cost of gas and a host of other goods. The cost for this ‘basket’ is calculated for areas across the country, including urban, rural and in-between. The average for all participating places equals 100, and each participant’s index is read as a percentage of the average for all places. The Index measures relative price levels for consumer goods and services in participating areas. Each quarterly report is a separate comparison of prices at a single point in time, and both the number and the mix of participants changes from one quarter to the next. Therefore, the Index does not measure inflation.

If a community’s percentage is under 100, then it is more affordable to live there than the average. If it’s over 100 then it’s more expensive. So how does our community stack up?

Spokane’s COLI recently dropped below 100, the first time since the first quarter of 2018. At a COLI of 99.1, we have a lower cost of living compared to Salt Lake City, UT at 108.1, Durham–Chapel Hill, NC at 104.4 and Boise, ID at 101.1 and a higher cost of living than places like Savanah, GA at 93.7, Tri-Cities, WA at 97.2 and Buffalo, NY at 96.0. By the way, Seattle, WA is 144.0.

Cost of Living Comparison Q1 2024

What does this mean in economic development? A high cost of living can make it difficult to attract and retain talent. People often look at the COLI as part of their decision to relocate. Talent is what drives innovation and business growth, and having your own talent pipeline is important, but so is the ability to recruit talent. A high cost of living can also drive-up business costs, making businesses that export goods outside of Spokane more expensive than their non-Spokane counterparts.  

This by no way means inflation hasn’t taken a bite out of everyone’s pocketbooks. The median household income in Spokane is 92.45 of the national average. So, while Spokane is less expensive to live, many folks don’t have the income they need to live comfortably. A goal would be to have the median income ‘match’ the COLI, or better yet exceed. That gives our citizens more disposable income and a higher quality of life. One way we try to raise median incomes is by having greater access to educational opportunities and growing those sectors of our economy that pay better. These are both things that GSI works on.

So, what can you do, well if you have friends or family that are thinking about a move, let them know that Spokane is not only a beautiful place to live, but their dollar will go just a little farther here. And if you know a business that is looking to expand let them know the same.  

Spokane Historical Cost of Living

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