Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Washington County Economic Update

Washington County turned in another strong economic performance according to recently-released employment figures. Job expansion has bounced around Washington County’s long-term average of 5 percent for the past three years. During the third quarter of 2014, the county’s year-over employment growth continued in this “just right” zone. In addition, Joblessness continues to edge ever downward and seems to be entering the full-employment range, so expect an uptick in wages in 2015. Rounding out this bright economic picture, gross taxable sales and new car sales showed healthy expansion.

  • Between September 2013 and September 2014, Washington County added more than 3,000 net new jobs for a robust year-to-year growth rate of 5.8 percent.
  • Employment expansion continued across a wide spectrum of industries, another indication of a strong economy.
  • The public sector, leisure/hospitality services and construction all added at least 500 new positions. In addition, both retail trade and transportation contributed more than 400 jobs each.
  • Manufacturing showed a hefty 200-job, 8-percent gain between September 2013 and September 2014. While the Blue Bunny plant closure is not reflected in the September numbers, neither is the re-opening of the Viracon plant. Overall, manufacturing employment should continue to increase.
  • Healthcare and social services showed slower-than-average gains in the third quarter of 2014. However, healthcare hiring remains strong. Losses in residential care (which includes teen treatment centers) lies at the heart of the current slowdown.
  • The only major industry employment loss of note is not really a decline at all. The seeming drop in wholesale trade jobs resulted from a location coding correction rather than the actual loss of positions.
  • Washington County’s December 2014 unemployment rate edged down another notch to 3.9 percent.
  • Lower numbers of jobless workers coupled with continued moderate job growth should mean the forces of supply and demand will put upward pressure on wages.
  • In the first few weeks of 2015, first-time claims for unemployment insurance per at the low levels of the past several years primarily reflecting seasonal layoffs.
  • In the third quarter of 2014, gross taxable sales increased by a year-over rate of 7.2 percent providing one more strong quarter in a long line of sales improvements.
  • Washington County’s new car and truck sales jumped a whopping 25 percent between the third quarters of 2013 and 2014.
  • Authorized permits for new homes did drop 20 percent between 2013 and 2014. However, the number of permits remains moderate and reflective of a market that is not overheated.
  • Home sales were also down slightly in the third quarter of 2014, but in general are trending upward.