Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Iron County Economic Update

Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

Iron County persisted along the bumpy road to economic recovery. After four months of improving (if not stellar) job growth, the county once more slipped into negative territory. Is the September 0.3-percent job loss cause for concern? Probably not. The major damage occurred in the public sector and may be a seasonal aberration. No, it wasn’t the federal government shutdown (October).

Overall, between September 2012 and September 2013, Iron County lost fewer than 50 jobs. Unfortunately, in addition to the notable drop in government employment, most major industries lost a niggling number of positions. Robust expansion in construction and private education/health/social services kept the county’s job totals from sinking further into the red. Also, the county added 26 covered agricultural jobs which are not included in the nonfarm job total.

The county’s unemployment rate continues to edge downward suggesting an improving labor market. In December 2013, Iron County’s jobless rate measured 5.1 percent—almost half its peak recession figure of 10 percent.

Gross taxable sales and new car/truck sales provide some of the happiest economic news. The county’s third quarter, 4-percent increase in gross taxable sales continued a nine-quarter streak of improving sales. Although new construction permitting data are not available, figures for early 2013 showed very strong gains which have obviously come to fruition in booming construction employment.

Moving forward, the healthy additions in construction and education/health/social services should help spur better performances among the county’s other sectors. In addition, announcements of several large construction projects and new manufacturing employment portend a better labor market future.