Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Brief Washington County Economic Update

Because of its enthusiastic participation in the housing bubble, Washington County encountered the worst recession of any of Utah’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas. However, after a late recovery, all the county’s economic indicators show a robustly improving economy. Here’s a brief rundown of the available economic indicators:

  • The best indicator of local economic well-being—the year-to-year change in nonfarm jobs—shows Washington County in fine form. As of March 2012, the county had added 2,450 net new jobs compared to a year earlier. This 5.4-percent increase places Washington County at its long term average for employment growth.
  • Washington County’s employment growth measures notably higher than either the Utah (3.3 percent) or U.S. (1.6 percent) rates of expansion.
  • All major industries added jobs between March 2011 and March 2012. This positive performance by all sectors represents a broad-based, and therefore, more sustainable expansion.
  • Leisure/hospitality services, professional/business services, private education/health/social services, and retail trade contributed the largest employment contributions.
  • In addition, manufacturing, the public sector and construction all generated net employment contributions of 200 positions or more.
  • Several industries experienced double-digit growth rates including manufacturing, professional/business services, mining (primarily sand and gravel pits), and wholesale trade.
  • Unemployment rates continue to trend downward. Washington County’s May 2012 jobless rate of 7.6 percent is nestled in between the national average (8.2 percent) and the statewide rate (6.0 percent).
  • Residential construction is once again showing signs of life. Home permits are up 24 percent for the first four months of the year. On the other hand, always-sporadic residential construction permit values are down from last year which pulled total permit values down by a negligible (for the world of construction permitting) 6 percent.
  • According to the federal Housing Price Index, Washington County’s home prices began appreciating in mid-2011. In the first quarter of 2012, home prices were up 2.3 percent compared with the previous year.
  • The National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Bank Housing Affordability Index suggests a median income family can now afford 76 percent of homes in the area compared to less than 20 percent in 2006.
  • First quarter 2012 gross taxable sales jumped 7 percent compared with first quarter 2011—the fifth straight quarter of sales gains. New car and truck sales are also up year-to-year.