Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Washington County Economic Update

Boring can be good when economic indicators remain strong. Washington County’s economic indicators have changed little in the past several years. However, job growth continues to trend near its strong long-term average, the unemployment rate continues to edge down and sales remain strong. While construction permitting changed little from last year, it also remains strong, showing no signs of overheating. Most counties will find cause for sincere envy in these tediously similar indicators. As the economy continues to grow a tightening labor market placed upward pressure on wages in the final quarter of 2014.

  • Washington County added more than 3,100 jobs between December 2013 and December 2014 for a hefty growth rate of 6 percent. 
  • Mining alone lost a minute number of jobs. 
  • The usual suspects – construction, retail trade, transportation, health services and leisure/hospitality services – created the highest number of new positions. 
  • While not among the largest job creators, manufacturing still showed a 9-percent year-to-year gain. 
  • Mirroring the surge in new jobs, joblessness continued ebb. In March 2015, the county’s unemployment rate slipped to 3.9 percent. 
  • The fourth-quarter 2014 year-to-year increase in the county’s average wage measured almost 6 percent. 
  • First-time claims for unemployment insurance in the first few months of 2015 are trending slightly lower than in the previous two years. 
  • Gross taxable sales turned in its fourth straight year of year-over increases. 
  • Between the fourth quarters of 2013 and 2014, sales improved by more than 7 percent. 
  • General merchandise stores (such as Target and WalMart), motor vehicle stores, garden/home supply stores, and food stores experienced particularly strong improvements. 
  • New car and truck sales also produced a nice 11-percent year-to-year gain in fourth quarter 2014. 
  • Overall, construction permit values rose by 11 percent, despite a slight decrease in home permitting.
  • Up 2.9 percent, Washington County exhibited the most rapid 2014 population expansion in southwest Utah. 
  • During 2014, population expansion kicked up almost a full percentage point while the county added more than 4,200 new residents. 
  • The county also exhibited the highest level of 2014 net in-migration in the state. Between 2010 and 2014, only Salt Lake County showed more net in-migrants. 
  • In terms of population, Washington County is the fifth largest county in Utah.