Monday, April 28, 2014

Wayne County Economic Update

Employment in Wayne County surged towards the end of 2013. Between December 2012 and December 2013, nonfarm jobs skyrocketed by almost 16 percent. That’s in stark contrast to several years earlier when the area lost its largest employer (Aspen Education Group). Moreover, during the first six months of the year, the labor market was actually contracting. While the strong employment gains may signal an improved economy, unemployment remains high. The county’s economic indicators suggest the county’s economy requires additional healing.

Leisure/hospitality services proved the prime mover and shaker behind the current expansion. However, trade, mining and healthcare/social services also contributed notably to the explosion of new jobs. While not all major industrial sectors shared in the economic joy, other sector declines proved modest.

Clashing with strong employment growth, Wayne County’s unemployment rate remains very high and has shown only minor decreases since peaking in mid-2012. At 10.9 percent, Wayne County jobless rate is the only double-digit figure in the state. Moreover, recently-released population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that Wayne County’s population actually experienced slight net in-migration in 2013. In other words, the job-seeking portion of the labor force may have increased. The county must generate consistent job growth in order to drive down its jobless rate.

Similar to the surge in nonfarm employment, gross taxable sales took a major leap at year-end. Between the fourth quarters of 2012 and 2013, sales jumped by 29 percent. However, the prime factor behind this gain appears to be a one-time, business-related expenditure.