Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brief Wayne County Update

Not surprisingly, the loss of Wayne County’s major employer (Aspen Health Group) continues to plague its labor market. Both job-loss and unemployment rates continue to register in double-digit territory. On the bright side, non-labor-force indicators provide some rays of hope. The main economic points for the county follow:
  • As a result of Aspen job declines working their way through the numbers, Wayne County showed an employment drop of 16 percent between March of 2011 and 2012. Overall, jobs dropped by 145 positions, year to year. Layoffs began about a year ago, so the job-loss rate has actually improved slightly in recent months.
  • The private education/health/social services industry (which includes the Aspen Group) obviously contributed the bulk of the decline in payroll jobs. However, several other industries also joined the job-losing club—most notably retail trade.
  • Net job gains did appear in several industries—most prominently in leisure/hospitality services, construction, and unemployment-insurance-covered agriculture.
  • Unemployment rates rose hand-in-hand with job losses. As of May 2012, Wayne County’s jobless rate measured 11.5 percent—far higher than its recession-era level. Currently, unemployment in Wayne County registers more than 3 full percentage points higher than the national average.
  • While the labor force contracted, construction activity expanded. The number of new home permits issued between January and April 2012 increased 67 percent in comparison with the same time frame in 2011. Also, a surge in residential additions/alterations/repairs helped shove total permit values up by 84 percent. This activity should show up as employment in future reports.
  • Wayne County first quarter 2012 gross taxable sales also presented a robust picture—up 18 percent from first quarter 2011. In the past two years, Wayne County has experienced only two quarters of declining sales—an admirable record.