Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Washington County Economic Update

Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

Indicators currently suggest that Washington County’s economy currently hangs out in the “Goldilocks zone.” Growth isn’t too hot, it isn’t too cold, it’s “just right.”

Year-to-year job growth has bounced around between roughly 5 and 6 percent for two years. Between September 2012 and September 2013, Washington County added more than 2,300 new jobs for an expansion rate of 4.7 percent. In addition, the county continues to add employment at a faster rate than both the state (3.1 percent) and the nation (1.7 percent).

Most major industries shared in the economic joy. Construction employment is back with a vengeance with a 600-job 16-percent year-to-year gain. Private education/health/social services (up 500-plus jobs) and leisure/hospitality services (up more than 400 jobs) also contributed to the county’s strong expansion. Despite the closure of Viracon earlier in the year, manufacturing managed a nice, healthy 5-percent gain.

The information industry and professional/business services displayed the only employment declines of note. Even among the contracting industries, losses proved relatively small.

Not surprisingly, the county’s jobless rate continued to tumble. As of December 2013, Washington County’s unemployment rate estimate measured just 4.5 percent and seems headed rapidly toward a full-employment level. Since it peaked at 11 percent in late 2009, joblessness has trended ever downward.

In third quarter 2013, gross taxable sales generated a 9-percent year-over gain marking the 11th-straight quarterly increase. Gains proved particularly large at motor vehicle/parts dealers, building materials/supplies stores and general merchandise stores.

Currently, its “just right” growth places Washington County’s stable economy in an enviable position. In addition, announced relocations and employment additions should continue to buoy up the area’s economy.