Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Brief Iron County Economic Update

Iron County has yet to fully embrace economic recovery. While it has shown some employment expansion in the last several years, the county seems to always take two steps forward and one step back. Year-to-year rates of employment gains bounce up and down from slight job gain to slight job loss. The most recent data show Iron County with a very slight employment loss. Here’s a short rundown on what the county’s economic indicators suggest:

  • Between March 2011 and March 2012, Iron County showed a net loss of about 40 jobs (down 0.3 percent). While that isn’t a huge number, the county’s continued lack of sustained growth is a major indication that its economy continues to struggle. In the last year and a half, Iron County’s best employment month—September 2011—registered a gain of only 1.2 percent.
  • Several major industries did show noteworthy employment gains. Wholesale trade, financial activities, leisure/hospitality services, and unemployment-insurance-covered agriculture all managed gains of about 20 jobs or more.
  • However, the job-losing industries outnumbered the job-winning industries. Construction, professional/business services, and private education/health/social services all suffered significant job hits.
  • Until Iron County can move more sectors onto the positive side of the employment ledger, it will not achieve full recovery.
  • Iron County’s jobless rate does continue to edge down. With limited employment expansion, the declining unemployment rate suggests that workers have either left the area or the labor market. At 7.3 percent, Iron County’s jobless rate does register below the national unemployment rate (8.2 percent) but considerably higher than the state figure (6.0 percent).
  • Construction permitting activity holds little hope for an improved construction employment scenario (although not all projects are permitted). Total permit values for the first four months of 2012—down 83 percent—carry on the slide evident for the previous five years.
  •  Home permits, with a January to April 2012 drop of 72 percent, appears almost at a standstill.
  • Sales figures bring the best economic news for Iron County. First quarter 2012 gross taxable sales increased by 6 percent compared to the previous year marking the third straight quarter of improving figures. In addition, cars sales jumped by 21 percent in the first quarter of 2012.