Guest Blog post by Emilia Istrate, PhD, Director of Research and Outreach, National Association of Counties
County economies are the building blocks of regional economies (metropolitan areas and micropolitan areas), states and the nation. County governments ensure the functioning of these fundamental units of the U.S. economy by building and maintaining basic infrastructure assets, keeping communities healthy and safe and providing the social safety net for those in need. Counties invest almost $500 billion annually in the services provided to their residents and local communities.
To better understand the dynamics within each county economy, the National Association of Counties (NACo) released earlier this month the 2014 County Economic Tracker: Progress through Adversity, an analysis of the recovery patterns across the 3,069 county economies in 2014. The conditions of a county economy can constrain and challenge county governments, residents and businesses, while also providing opportunities.
The full analysis can be found at www.naco.org/countyeconomies. To access the companion interactive maps and the individualized county profiles, go to NACo’s County Explorer interactive map at www.naco.org/countyexplorer. The January update of NACo’s interactive tool features the economic data from the County Economic Tracker analysis.
The 2014 County Economic Tracker analyzes annual changes of four economic performance indicators— economic output (GDP), employment, unemployment rates and home prices — between 2013 and 2014 across the 3,069 county economies. In addition, it explores 2012-2013 wage dynamics, taking into account the effect of local cost-of-living and inflation on average annual wages in county economies.
We saw significant growth in 2014. The economic output (GDP) in 55 percent of all county economies recovered or did not decline over the last decade. Home prices were in a similar situation. Job growth accelerated and 63 percent of county economies witnessed faster job gains than in 2013. This job growth helped unemployment decline in almost all county economies during the last year. However, there is still work that needs to be done to help the economy recover to pre-recession levels, when it comes to unemployment rates.
The economic recovery is starting to spread.