Sevier County pulled itself out of the recession earlier than most of its nonurban neighbors. However, in the intervening quarters much of that early expansion has slipped away. With the release of preliminary third quarter 2012 employment data, Sevier County seems to be taking its first baby steps towards a healthier economy. Here’s a few bullet points outlining the county’s current economic performance:
• In third quarter, monthly year-over employment gains bounced around the 2-percent mark. While not representing the fittest of economies, the relatively steady expansion is better than the no-growth scenario earlier in the year.
• Between September 2011 and September 2012, Sevier County added almost 120 net new jobs for growth rate of 1.5 percent.
• Two industries stand out as the major contributors to an enlarging labor market. Private education/health/social services and transportation each added more than 70 jobs.
• On the negative side of the ledger, mining, construction, and government each took a job hit of roughly 20 positions.
• After a brief uptick in joblessness early in the year related to layoffs, Sevier County’s unemployment rate is once again slowly trending downward. In November 2012, the county’s jobless rate stood at 5.9 percent—down from 6.5 percent in November 2011. Currently, the county’s rate huddles between the national rate of 7.7 percent and the state rate of 5.2 percent.
• Most rural areas have yet to experience a resurgence in the home-building sector. Sevier County proves no exception to this rule. For the first ten months of the year, home permits are down 68 percent. Moreover, the county has not experienced an improvement in home-permitting in six years. On the other hand, new nonresidential permitting should buoy up the sagging construction industry employment. Permitting of a public project has shoved total permitting values up 72 percent over last year.
• Although third quarter gross taxable sales figures have not yet been released, it seems likely they will build on the recent trend of improving sales.