Monday, November 4, 2013

Washington County Economic Update

In Washington County, the good economic news (like the hits) just keeps on comin’. Recently-released second quarter jobs figures show the county remained in its sweet spot—growing between 5 and 6 percent on a year-to-year basis. Keep in mind that the comparable rate of national job growth measures 1.6 percent. Moreover, the county’s other economic indicators are falling right in line with the healthy job growth. It’s difficult to find anything negative to say about the area’s current economy. Click "read more" for highlights and visualizations.

  • Between June 2012 and June 2013, nonfarm employment in Washington County expanded by a vigorous 5.1 percent. Countywide, jobs increased roughly 2,600 net positions. 
  • Washington County seems to have managed the proverbial economic “soft landing.” Job growth has bounced around in the 5 to 6 percent range for a year and a half—at times doubling fast-growing Utah’s rate of expansion. 
  • Happily, the county achieved this rate of growth despite the closure of glass-manufacturer, Viracon. Additionally, the full ramp-up of Family Dollar distribution employment will show up in later months. 
  • The construction industry is certainly back with a 20-percent increase in jobs—a net gain of more than 700 positions between June 2012 and June 2013. Not surprisingly, June marks the county’s best construction employment performance since the economy tanked. On the other hand, total construction employment measures less than half the level of the over-heated boom days. 
  • Most industries shared in the county’s economic joy. Particularly strong gains proved apparent in the leisure/hospitality services industry. It added almost as many positions as construction. 
  • Private education/health/social services, professional/business services and financial activities also generated notable numbers of new jobs. 
  • Manufacturing employment held steady despite the closure of Viracon during the second quarter.
  • The transportation sector did show a loss of more than 70 jobs. Plus, mining and information lost a negligible number of positions.
  • Not surprisingly, the county’s vigorous job growth translated into lower and lower levels of unemployment. In August 2013, the county’s jobless rate measured 5.3 percent, down dramatically from 6.9 percent just a year earlier. Washington County’s unemployment rate does measure slightly higher than the state rate (4.7 percent) at this point in time.
  • Some talk of “labor shortages” has begun to surface—particularly for lower-skilled, lower-paying jobs. Expect to see some upward pressure in wages, if this continues.
  • The temporary federal government shutdown resulted in an unusual spurt in first-time claims for unemployment insurance during recent weeks. Obviously, this is a short-term rather than business cycle issue.
  • During the first four months of 2013, new home permits showed a spirited 47-percent increase in Washington County. Moreover, after being slow to join the construction party, new nonresidential permit values rose substantially. This increase in construction is directly reflected in the previously-mentioned construction employment figures.
  • The housing market recovery is also mirrored in the notable increase in home values. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index for Washington County has increased steadily for the last year and a half. Between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013, the Washington County index increased by more than 8 percent.
  • Gross taxable sales added one more positive mark to the strong Washington economy tally with its ten-quarter improvement streak. Between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013, sales increased by more than 9 percent.
  • Not to be outdone, new car and light truck sales in Washington County increased by 36 percent in the second quarter of 2013.