Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Iron County Economic Update

Iron County ended 2015 with another quarter of strong job growth signaling its firm entrenchment in an expansionary mode. In addition, growth is relatively broad-based with most industries sharing in the economic joy. Unemployment remains low, but not too low and first-time claims for unemployment insurance show no signs of cyclical distress. Construction permitting values doubled last year’s figures with homebuilding showing the best year since the recession. Gross taxable sales rounded out this bright picture with strong fourth-quarter improvement.

• With 4.5 percent expansion, Iron County’s nonfarm jobs increased by 750 positions between December 2014 and December 2015.

• While most industries added employment, retail trade, leisure/hospitality services and manufacturing dominated the figures with each industry creating 100-plus new jobs.

• Other notable job-gaining industries included construction, professional business services, private education/health/social services and government.

• Among the major industrial sectors, only mining showed a slight decline.

• Joblessness followed its recent trend hovering near the full-employment-level of 4 percent.

• In March 2016, Iron County’s unemployment rate measured 4.2 percent, just slightly lower than the year-ago figure, but slightly higher than the statewide average of 3.5 percent.

• In the first few months of 2016, first time claims for unemployment insurance kept to a regular seasonal pattern suggesting no cyclical issues.

• Construction, retail trade and professional/business services (all with a seasonal/temporary component) have generated the largest number of new claims so far this year.

• Iron County’s average monthly nonfarm wage continues to trend slowly upward. The year-over gain for fourth quarter 2015 measured almost 6 percent.

• In 2015, construction permitting values more than doubled the 2014 figures.

• While solar-project permitting boosted nonresidential totals, Iron County’s new home permits reached their highest level since the beginning of the recession (up 26 percent in 2015).

• Expansion in fourth-quarter gross taxable sales proved particularly strong with a year-over gain of 17 percent.

• While a prior-period adjustment was responsible for part of this increase, retail trade and food services sales increased nicely with a particularly strong showing by motor vehicle dealers.

• In addition, gains in business investment expenditures by utilities and construction also added to the overall improvement.