By Matt Schroeder
Weber County ended 2014 with signs of deepening economic strength and vitality. Wages, which have been slow to keep up with the rest of the recovering labor market, finally turned a corner. A considerable uptick in construction permits reveals positive expectations for housing demand. Taxable sales were up more than 5 percent with particular strength in retail markets suggesting that consumer confidence continues to build. Motor vehicle sales were particularly strong thanks in part to falling oil prices. Unemployment continues to fall and initial unemployment insurance claims are back to pre-recession levels. Employment growth was consistent and broad based. Overall, the roots of recovery appear to be firmly set in the region and Weber County’s economic performance at the end of 2014 leaves continued-optimism for 2015 as the rational expectation.
- Weber County employment growth picked up a bit to 3.0 percent year-over in Q4 2014 adding 2,842 new positions after growing just 2.0 percent in Q3. This is the first time in a year and a half that Weber County has broken 3 percent employment growth.
- Job growth in Weber County was widespread with 10 out of 11 industry sectors experiencing positive growth in Q4 2014. Trade/transportation/warehousing, professional/business services, manufacturing, and construction, were all major contributing industries adding 574, 538, 498, and 457 new jobs, respectively. The uptick in growth was driven by the services sector where all 8 service-providing industries posted higher employment growth rates than in the previous quarter.
- Weber County unemployment dropped slightly to 3.9 percent in March 2015. The rate has not been this low since June 2008, and has fallen 0.6 percentage points since March 2014. But it still remains higher than the state unemployment rate of 3.4 percent.
- Initial unemployment claims in Weber County averaged less than 115 per week as of the first week of April 2015. This represents a full return to pre-recession levels.
- Weber County wages accelerated to 3.9 percent year-over growth in Q4 2014, after growing just 1.7 percent in Q3. The average monthly wage level came in at $3,218. Wage improvement is being experienced across all industries in Weber County, though the construction and professional/scientific/technical services industries showed particular strength with respective increases of 8.3 and 7.7 percent.
- Taxable sales in Weber County for Q4 2014 reached $980 million, an increase of 5.4 percent over Q4 2013. Retail food/beverage stores and retail motor vehicle dealers were the largest contributors, adding $7.7 million and $6.1 million, respectively.
- Construction activity in Weber County took off in 2014. Residential construction permits jumped 66 percent (or 21 percent in terms of value), to 1,003 units, and the value of permitted nonresidential construction doubled in comparison to 2013.