Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Washington County Economic Update

Second verse, same as the first—almost.

Washington County’s economic indicators continued to exhibit strong expansion during the first few months of 2013. Recently-released first quarter 2013 jobs data indicates that the area expanded at a healthy pace. The county’s rate of growth edged down a smidgen to just below 5 percent, but remains the envy of most of the United States.

While many think the current economy falls short of the “glory” pre-recession days, the existing rate of growth is certainly more sustainable and does not reflect an overheated economy similar to the mid-2000 years.

Check out the details:

  • Between March 2012 and March 2013, Washington County’s nonfarm jobs grew by 4.7 percent—representing a net gain of more than 2,200 positions.
  • That rate of growth is slightly slower than the 5-6 percent gains of 2012 and seems to represent a “soft landing” that will continue. 
  • In comparison, fast-growing Utah expanded by only 3.4 percent during the same time period. 
  •  These job figures do not yet reflect two notable events—the temporary shutdown of Viracon and the addition of the Family Dollar distribution site. 
  • Most industries contributed to the overall vigor of the labor market. Only transportation, mining and the information industry displayed very minor declines. 
  • The leisure/hospitality industries generated the highest number of new jobs (over 500). However, construction, private education/health care/social services and professional/business services added 200 jobs or more each. In addition, most of the remaining industries produced gains of more than 100 jobs each. 
  • Strong job growth resulted in a continued drop in the unemployment rate. At 5.7 percent, the May 2013 joblessness has dropped 2 full percentage points from a year earlier. 
  • Anecdotal evidence of a slightly tighter labor market seems to be surfacing—particularly in lower-paying occupations. Remember, there are no labor shortages only wage shortages.
  • Apart from a surge in manufacturing claims in April and May, first-time claims for unemployment insurance have settled into a normal seasonal pattern. 
  • Construction permitting continued to improve as the year began. The number of new home permits issued is up 46 percent for the first three months of 2013 and total permit values jumped nearly 60 percent over the same time period. 
  • New nonresidential values have yet to join the permitting party, but that reflects a typical configuration in construction recovery. 
  • A healing home market is also reflected in appreciating home values. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s first quarter 2013 House Price Index marks the fifth straight quarter of increasing home prices in Washington County. 
  • Gross taxable sales kicked gains up a notch with a first quarter 2013 year-over gain of 16 percent—the strongest performance of the post-recession economy. 
  • New car and light truck sales currently reflect pent-up demand and an improving economy. Compared to the first quarter of 2012, first quarter 2013 sales increased by 36 percent.