Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Iron County Economic Update

With another quarter of moderate, broad-based job growth under its belt, Iron County appears firmly entrenched in economic expansion. As in much of Utah, unemployment rates flattened out in 2015 and remain relatively low. Plus, first-time claims for unemployment insurance finished 2015 with fewer seasonal claims than usual. Solar projects kept nonresidential permits humming, while the county permitted the highest number of new homes in eight years. The icing on the economic cake was a strong sales performance in the third quarter. Iron County’s indicators point to an economy running on all cylinders.

  • Iron County added more than 630 new jobs between September 2014 and September 2015, for a year-to-year increase of nearly 4 percent. 
  • Most industries shared in the employment expansion. Mining proved a notable exception. 
  • Retail trade, leisure/hospitality services, manufacturing, government and construction each contributed 100 positions or more to the overall expansion. 
  • In December 2015, Iron County’s unemployment rate measured 4.0 percent, down 0.4 points from December a year ago. 
  • Moderate job growth coupled with a plateauing unemployment rate suggests the labor market is in balance, creating enough jobs for new and returning entrants. 
  • First-time claims for unemployment insurance continued at a low seasonal level as autumn progressed. 
  • Average wages continue to improve. Between the third quarters of 2014 and 2015, the county’s average nonfarm wage increased by 4.6 percent. 
  • Total construction permit values showed a robust 150-percent increase for the first 11 months of the year. 
  • Solar-project permitting accounted for much of this gain. However, new home permits are up nearly 40 percent and marked the best year since before the recession. 
  • Healthy gains in gross taxable sales produced a 9-percent expansion between the third quarters of 2014 and 2015. 
  • In the past four years, the county has only one quarter of declining sales. 
  • Sales at general merchandise stores and building materials/gardening stores proved particularly strong.