We won't say they're big trends yet, but two local economic indicators we track aren't as bullish as we'd like them to be heading toward 2016.
First, the initial September Nashville-area jobs data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics caught our eye for the wrong reasons. Other than the white-hot construction sector popping back to a double-digit yearly growth rate, there isn't a whole lot of good news to glean from the numbers. Job growth in the important manufacturing sector has been more than cut in half since July while leisure/hospitality and retail establishments have cooled their heels, too. Only the education/health sector is holding steady.
Second, take a peek at the latest (August) installment of the Freddie Mac Multi-Indicator Market Index of housing health for Nashville. Yes, it shows the region still up 10 percent from a year earlier but the month-to-month change that had been steadily positive since the spring went flat at a time when the big selling season hadn't yet ended. Something else to monitor — particularly if a housing slowdown hurts local consumer sentiment...
Slowdowns in the growth of Middle Tennessee's largest job grouping as well as in the important manufacturing sector pushed year-over-year employment growth below 3 percent in August, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The professional and business services sector, which accounts for 15 percent of all Nashville-area jobs, grew by just 1.8 percent in August — its smallest number since June of last year. Meanwhile, job growth in the area's auto-heavy manufacturing industry slowed to 2.4 percent while the information and finance sectors went a little deeper into the red year over year. Offsetting some of those negative developments were strong months from the big leisure and education/health sectors.
After a few subpar spring months, Nashville's job growth has been powering through the summer. June and July's growth of 3.7 and 3.6 percent was the strongest two-month since last August and September and was driven primarily by hiring surges in the important retail and leisure/hospitality sectors. And for the sixth time in nine months, area construction companies employed at least 10 percent more people than they did a year ago.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics this week published its regular report on job and wage growth in the nation's counties, this time for the fourth quarter of 2014. The report makes for fun reading for some in the local economic development community: Williamson County's 6.1 percent job growth rate last year ranks fifth nationally in the BLS' large-county category while the 4.9 percent increase in average wages put the county in the top 50. Similarly, Rutherford County's job growth of 3.9 percent easily outpaced the nation's 2.2 percent pace.
Davidson County's strong growth of 3.6 percent, however, is made a good bit more sobering when put alongside its wage numbers, which clocked in at just 1.5 percent. That put the heart of Middle Tennessee and the home of more than half its jobs all the way in 306th out of 340 counties. With the mayoral race heating up, we're thinking the topic of wages and bringing quality jobs to Davidson County will quickly move up the agenda from here.
You can peruse the full BLS report at this link.
Here's an interesting stat from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
In its most recent release involving unemployment, the department lists the number of people for "available labor" — that is, discouraged workers, unemployed workers and the partially unemployed.
In only 13 of the state's 95 counties are there more available female workers than male. For employment in general, women (at least those who want a full-time job) seemingly are faring better than men in Tennessee.
Now as to wage equality related to gender...
So we can't point to the harsh winter weather anymore, right?
Year-over-year job growth in the Nashville MSA clocked in at 2.7 percent in April, in line with the previous two months. As far as we can tell, it's the first time in more than three years that Music City has put up three straight months of sub-3 percent growth. Smaller gains in construction didn't help, but that sector employs less than 40,000 of the region's almost 900,000 workers so it can't really have a big impact. Of bigger import has been the dropoff in growth in the business services and hospitality sectors, which combine to employ more than 240,000 people. On the plus side, manufacturing, retail and education/health are holding their own.
The Nashville Technology Council and CareerBuilder have released their latest report on the state of Nashville's technology jobs market. The short version: Employment rose by 2,200 people and the number of openings grew 9 percent to more than 1,500. But closing the gap between the region's supply and demand — one of the NTC team's biggest priorities — remains a big challenge because the region isn't yet producing enough degreed or certified tech professionals.
Check out the full report here. It also features comparisons to cities around the Southeast and shows that Nashville-area employers tend to pay a little less than their peers elsewhere in the region.
So... This set of numbers showing Nashville job growth staying well under 3 percent for the second straight month was probably due to the weather, right? For the sake of It City, let's hope the late-winter snows are to blame. It's likely the weather is the cause of the construction sector's drop into single-digit growth for the first time since October. But a number of other sectors also were well off the pace they had set early this year. Come next month, they'll have to pick up the pace.
Nashville-area employment growth slipped to 2.6 percent in February, its slowest pace in at least a couple of years. The biggest contributors to the slowdown — which would seem to have been heavily influenced by the disruptive winter storms — were the manufacturing, business services and leisure sectors.
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