Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Washington County Economic Update

Another quarter, another fine economic performance. After the anguish of the recession, somehow Washington County’s persistent, moderately-expanding economy just never seems boring. Fourth-quarter 2015 job growth clocked in again near the 5-percent mark while the unemployment rate held below 4 percent. Jobs seem to be growing fast enough to absorb new entrants, but not so fast as to overly stress the labor market. The seasonal, noncyclical performance of new unemployment insurance claims bolsters this view. Construction permitting ended 2015 with a slight gain suggesting this market is not overheated as well. With these indicators and strong growth in gross taxable sales, Washington County sports an enviable economy.

• Washington County produced almost 3,000 new jobs between December 2014 and December 2015, up 5.3 percent.

• Healthcare/social services led the job-creation pack with almost 800 new positions. In addition, construction, professional/business services and manufacturing turned in honorable mention performances.

• All major industrial sectors experienced job growth. • Government turned in one of the most sluggish displays, expanding by only 1 percent.

• Healthy job growth kept the county’s jobless rate at a low 3.8 percent in March 2016. • The jobless rate is indicative of an economy at “full employment.”

• New claims for unemployment insurance followed a seasonal pattern in the first few months of 2016 and show no signs of large lay-offs.

• Retail trade, professional/business services and leisure/hospitality services (all with seasonal or temporary characteristics) have generated the largest numbers of first-time claims so far this year.

• Washington County’s average monthly nonfarm wage continues to slowly increase. Between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015, the average wage increased roughly 4 percent.

• With a 9-percent gain, construction permitting values showed a moderate uptick in 2015.

• New nonresidential values slipped slightly, while home permits showed a slender gain. Homebuilding shows no current signs of the excesses of the previous housing bubble.

• The county’s gross taxable sales increased by a healthy 10.3 percent between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015.

• Motor vehicle dealers, durable wholesale trade and general merchandise store sales showed the strongest additio