We think of the late 1990s in the Northwest as having a scorching economy—dot.com wealth flowed like water, and a tight labor market drew people to the Northwest in droves.

Well, maybe not.

A new analysis suggests that Washington residents, at least, were more settled during the late 1990s than they were during the late 1980s: the share of residents who’d moved into the state recently dropped from 17.4 percent in the 1990 census to 15.4 percent in 2000.

And what’s more, with the exception of people in their early 20’s, recent in-migrants tended to earn less than people who’d lived in the region for longer. This was especially true for people with a high-school diploma or less. Apparently, some migrants were drawn to Washington by the prospect of a hot economy, only to find that jobs in the state weren’t all that lucrative.

This is consistent with our other findings on economic security: Just as the stock market boomed in the late 1990s, unemployment and poverty rates in the Northwest U.S. started to creep up as well. That’s yet another reason to be skeptical of the standard measures of economic progress—and, perhaps more importantly, the headlines in the business pages.