After almost a year of stagnant economic performance, Sevier County is showing signs of renewed expansion. After moderate employment expansion in 2010 and early 2011, overall growth evaporated in the face of several layoffs. The final two months of second quarter 2012 showed moderate employment expansion. While it is too early to predict a firmly-footed trend, the current numbers are certainly encouraging. Here’s what the indicators say:
• Between June 2011 and June 2012, Sevier County’s nonfarm employment base grew by roughly 3 percent—just in that moderate range that economist’s like to see. This increase translates into more than 230 net new jobs for Sevier County.
• On the other hand, not industries shared in the employment job. Almost half the new employment additions occurred in just one industry—trucking/warehousing. Other notable job contributors included private healthcare/social services, professional/business services and construction.
• The remaining major industries either added a few jobs or lost a few jobs.
• After a brief uptick in joblessness early in the year related to layoffs, Sevier County’s unemployment rate is once again slowly trending downward. As of August 2012, the county’s unemployment rate stood at 6 percent—not significantly higher than the state average and far below the U.S. figure.
• As in many areas, Sevier County’s construction permitting activity has yet to join the economic recovery. For the first half of 2012, new home permits are down a remarkable 71 percent. Homebuilding has contracted in Sevier County since before the recession officially began. Overall, permitting values are down 24 percent compared to the first half of 2011.
• On the other hand, sales reflect the progress in the labor market. Sevier County has generated sales gains in five out of the past six quarters. Compared to second quarter 2011, second quarter 2012 gross taxable sales are up by 7 percent.