Monday, October 22, 2012

Brief Wayne County Update

When a small county loses its largest employer, it’s bound to wreak havoc on the local economy. The closure of Aspen Health Group will continue to infect Wayne County’s economy long after the “numbers” have improved. As time progresses, the job loss numbers look better. However, the labor force is still under duress. And, that is where the new released job figures find Wayne County—with improving job figures, but not necessarily an improving labor market. Here’s what all the numbers say.
  • As a result of Aspen job declines working their way through the numbers, Wayne County showed an employment drop of “only” 3.0 percent between June 2011 and June 2012. Overall, jobs dropped by 34 positions, year to year. Layoffs began over a year ago, so the job-loss rate has actually improved slightly in recent months. However, keep in mind that the Wayne County economy continues to suffer in the wake of this closing.
  • The private education/health/social services industry (which includes the Aspen Group) continues to generate the bulk of the decline in payroll jobs. However, several other industries also joined the job-losing club—most notably the public sector and other services.
  • Net job gains are showing up in several industries—most prominently in leisure/hospitality services and construction.
  • Understandably, Wayne County’s unemployment rates remain high. The August 2012 figure registered 11.3 percent—far above both the state and national averages. New claims for unemployment insurance—always low in the summer and early fall months—have virtually evaporated. That’s a good sign that at least the job hemorrhages have ceased.
  • All is not gloom and doom in Wayne County’s economy. Construction permitting activity should make residents bright and happy. Figures for the first half of 2012 show home permits up 40 percent—a rarity outside the metro areas and oil/gas field counties. Overall construction permit values increased 23 percent in comparison with the same time period in 2011. This activity should continue to buoy-up construction employment.
  • Wayne County second quarter 2012 gross taxable sales also presented a robust picture—up 9 percent from second quarter 2011. In the past two years, Wayne County has experienced only two quarters of declining sales—an outstanding record.