Thursday, July 30, 2015

Beaver County Economic Update

With construction-related job losses in the past (at least for now), Beaver County’s economic indicators painted a bright picture for the first few months of 2015. Job growth, the most predictive of the indicators, proved particularly strong in the first quarter. Interestingly, following the uptick in employment, joblessness edged upward slightly. Nevertheless, the rate remains relatively low in historical terms. Moreover, initial claims for unemployment insurance stayed at low levels as the summer proceeded. In 2015, construction permitting, as well as gross taxable sales, showed enormous year-to-year gains reflecting large capital projects. Currently, the economy shows healthy expansion. However, Beaver County will find itself on the large-project employment roller coaster once again as construction employment totals build once more.

  • Beaver County’s nonfarm employment totals increased by 3.4 percent between March 2014 and March 2015, posting a gain of almost 80 jobs.

  • Mining and professional/scientific/technical services took the lead in the employment expansion with help from manufacturing, other services and the public sector.

  • Leisure/hospitality services, wholesale trade and transportation/warehousing industries bucked the pattern with a display of employment contraction.

  • At the end of the first quarter of 2015, Beaver County’s construction industry jobs increased slightly. However, expect totals to swell in future months in concert with the start of solar construction projects.

  • Although jobs showed healthy expansion in the first quarter, Beaver County unemployment rates in the following months actually ticked up. Nevertheless, Beaver County’s June 2015 unemployment rate of 3.8 percent registered slightly lower than the year-ago rate.
  • It also falls far short of the U.S. rate of 5.3 percent. The first half of the summer showed first-time claims for unemployment insurance running at a low seasonal level.
  • So far this year, construction, retail trade and leisure/hospitality services (all with seasonal components) have generated the highest number of new claims.
  • Following the lead of other economic indicators, Beaver County average monthly wage have ebbed and flowed with large construction projects, but in general are trending upward.
  • The average wage for the four quarters ending March 2015 measured almost $2,800.
  • Permitting of several solar power projects drove Beaver County construction values into the economic stratosphere.
  • The county’s total authorized permit values are up more than 1,100 percent for the first five months of 2015 when compared to the same time period in 2014.
  • Residential permitting remains very slow with only two home permits issued between January and May 2015.
  • Gross taxable sales also increased at a monumental rate, increasing 28 percent between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015.
  • Strong increases in business investment expenditures (mostly manufacturing) shouldered most of the gain while retail sales declined.