Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sevier County Economic Update

Although Sevier County peeked its head out of the recessionary trough earlier than most rural counties, its economy spent most of 2011 in employment stagnation. During early 2012, employment growth improved, but by year-end, recently released figures show job expansion ebbing once again.

The remaining economic indicators also present a mixed bag suggesting that the county’s economy has yet to find a firm expansionary footing. Here’s a blow by blow account.

  • Between December 2011 and December 2012, Sevier County’s nonfarm employment grew a meager 0.4 percent—only 34 net new jobs. 
  • Notable declines in mining and transportation employment put the primary drag on job expansion. 
  • On the positive side of the ledger, private education/health/social services, construction, and leisure/hospitality services added at least 20 new jobs each. 
  • Despite the county’s less-than-stellar job-creation performance, unemployment rates continue to trend down. In February 2012, the county’s jobless rate registered 6.1 percent—down from 6.5 percent in February 2011. Like many of its neighbors, Sevier County’s demonstrates an unemployment rate wedged between the national (7.7 percent) and state (5.2 percent) rates. 
  • New 2013 claims for unemployment insurance have tended to trend below 2012 levels with volatile construction and professional/business services (which include temporary agencies) producing the largest number of first-time claims. 
  • Construction has yet to shake off the effects of the recession. The number of new dwelling units permitted in the county dropped 64 percent in 2012—the sixth straight year of home-permit contraction. 
  • Nonresidential permitting took up the slack. Sevier County was one of the few rural counties to show a year-to-year gain in total permit values (69 percent). One large nonresidential additions/alterations/repair permit helped drive total values up substantially. In fact, this category accounted for two-thirds of total permit values. 
  • Sevier’ County’s gross taxable sales have tended to bounce around in recent quarters. However, before fourth quarter 2012, the county had shown four quarters of positive gains. Fourth quarter 2012 put an end to that pattern with a slight 2-percent year-to-year decrease. 
  • New car and truck sales also took a 6-percent dip in fourth quarter.