Thursday, July 30, 2015

Washington County Economic Update

Recently released data shows Washington is still firmly ensconced in the arms of the economic expansion. First-quarter job growth continued in its robust trend without showing signs of overheating. Unemployment has flattened in recent months but remains lower than at any time since the recession and, more importantly, in the full-employment region. In addition, first-time claims for unemployment insurance slipped ever lower. Construction permitting continued to improve, but shows little sign of irrational exuberance. In line with the other indicators, sales showed vigorous expansion.

  • Between March 2014 and March 2015, Washington County created almost 2,500 net new jobs for a year-to-year expansion rate of nearly 5 percent.
  • The strongest employment expansion occurred in healthcare and social services. However, manufacturing, retail trade, transportation/warehousing, leisure/hospitality services and the public sector all contributed noteworthy numbers of new positions.
  • While construction employment continued to expand, the rate of increase has slowed dramatically (less than 1 percent on a year-over basis).
  • Strong permitting activity should keep the industry growing, but moderating growth suggests the industry is avoiding the explosive growth that precipitated the last recession.
  • No major industry showed significant job losses although mining, information and other services either lost a few positions over the past year or experienced little improvement.
  • After trending down for more than five years, Washington County’s jobless rate appears to be leveling off near the full-employment level.
  • In June 2015, Washington County’s unemployment rate measured 4 percent down 0.3 percentage points from the same time last year.
  • New claims for unemployment insurance slipped even lower than the past several years’ level during the first half of the summer.
  • Interestingly, so far this year, claims are generally concentrated in the industries which are also experiencing the strongest job gains.
  • This is most likely occurring because of the seasonal and/or temporary nature of these industries.
  • While the county’s average wage is slowing inching upward, the labor market is not yet tight enough to engender notable wage gains.
  • For the four quarters ending March 2015, the county’s average monthly wage measured just more than $2,600.
  • For the first five months of 2015, Washington County’s construction permitting values rose by 12 percent.
  • Home permit numbers are running just slightly higher than during the same period last year and appear to have settled at a reasonable long-term level.
  • Nonresidential permitting showed a robust 60-percent increase.
  • Gross taxable sales continued their vigorous growth trend.
  • Between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015, sales increased by more than 6 percent.
  • Gains proved particularly noticeable in motor vehicle and parts dealers. General merchandise stores and leisure/hospitality services also experienced strong additions.