Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sevier County Economic Update

Despite its early post-recession recovery, Sevier County now struggles to return to expansion. According to recently released jobs data, the county lost employment between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013. While the losses proved fairly minor at less than 1 percent in June, job losses are still job losses. To be considered healthy, an economy should see an expanding labor market rather than a contracting one. Other indicators produced mixed economic signals. While home permits are up for the first time since the recession, total permitted values are down. Cars sales rose substantially, but gross taxable sales expansion proved lackluster. To be pronounced economically fit, the county must generate new jobs and present a solid front among its other economic indicators. To read highlights and see graphic visualizations, "read more."

  • Between June 2012 and June 2013, Sevier County’s nonfarm jobs dropped by just under 1 percent reflecting a decline of about 80 positions.
  • Most major industries showed up on the negative side of the ledger. The largest job losses can be traced to mining (down 40 jobs) and professional/business services (down 60 positions).
  • Only three major sectors added jobs and healthcare/social services experienced the only net gain of note (74 jobs). Covered agriculture (numbers not included in the nonfarm job totals) contributed roughly 20 additional jobs to the economy.
  • Despite a weak jobs picture, the county’s unemployment rate continues to edge downward. In August 2013, joblessness measured 5.4 percent—down from 6.0 percent in August 2012. The contracting unemployment rates may reflect individuals leaving the labor force, leaving the area or finding jobs in other counties.
  • As a result of the temporary government shutdown, first-time claims for unemployment insurance showed a recent spike which should settle back down to a more seasonal pattern as the year continues.
  • Sevier County is finally showing improvement in home permitting. The first four months of 2013 display a 40-percent gain over the same time period in 2012. However, the number of new permits remains small.
  • Nonresidential permitting is down substantially compared to last year resulting in an overall decline in total permitted values.
  •  Between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013, gross taxable sales showed a languid 2-percent gain. While for the most part this indicator has landed in the black during the past several years, it still shows a disturbing tendency for sporadic declines, another symptom of a less than robust economy.
  • Sales of new light trucks and cars made the best economic news of the quarter. On the heels of a 44-percent year-to-year gain in first quarter, second quarter sales rose 38 percent.