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...
The holiday shopping season is just about upon us, which means large retailers need all the help they can get. Among them is Macy's, which runs a very large shipping operation in Portland. The Cincinnati-based company is looking for a whopping 1,500 seasonal workers and has tasked Goodwill Industries to help it find many of them. Goodwill will this Friday host five simultaneous job fairs — in Gallatin, downtown, Springfield, Madison and Clarksville — for warehouse and distribution positions. Check out more info here.
SEE ALSO: This link to get to the now-hiring page for Walmart, which on Monday afternoon said it will hire more than 1,700 seasonal workers across Tennessee. The retail giant pointed out that more than half of its seasonal employees across the country last year stayed on in permanent positions.
Here's a local economic indicator we should probably watch more closely — especially as we discuss what to do about affordable housing and income inequality. Nashville-area seasonally adjusted average hourly earnings, as compiled here by MTSU's Business and Economic Research Center, have basically circled $23 for the past year and a half. And for the past five months, they've been below year-earlier levels, the longest such streak since the spring of 2013. This has happened as the average number of hours worked weekly also have dipped since early 2014.
It could be that the current downswing is nothing more than a cyclical breather after last year's pretty steep increases, when year-over-year increases topped 5 percent for seven straight months. But if it's a structural issue, it could point to an oversupply of labor — thanks to all our new friends moving here, perhaps? — or a potentially troubling reticence from many local employers to commit to raises because of concerns about their growth prospects in the coming year and beyond.
Here's the chart showing the year-over-year increases going back to the beginning of 2012.
Memphis-based Hunter Fan Co. has leased almost 30,000 square feet of flex space near Nashville International Airport for a new division that will make large fans for commercial and industrial customers. The company plans to hire 25 people in the next year and grow its local workforce to 100 by the end of 2018. Adam Sichko at the Business Journal has more details here.
"As we grow, we'll need more R&D engineers and more industrial designers. We'll need creative people in sales and marketing. Those folks are pretty widely available here, as compared to Memphis," Bredeson added. "If you're churning through those folks every six or 12 months, that gets to be devastatingly expensive for the company."
UPDATE: The official number of jobs coming here is 380 and Lyft's investment will total $5.1 million. In a statement, Lyft COO Rex Tibbens said Nashville "is a city whose welcoming, creative culture and values mirror our own. Our history in Nashville coupled with our admiration for the community is why we’re so excited to make downtown Nashville the home of our newest Lyft office, and will be investing in our growth there for years to come."
As originally reported:
Ride-sharing service Lyft is preparing to relocate a customer service team of about 20 to Nashville from San Francisco, TechCrunch reported over the weekend. The move will help bring the company closer to its East Coast customers while cutting office space costs by more than half. It also looks to be the beginning of something big.
We’ve been told the plan is to grow the Nashville office and hire hundreds of new employees. It’s not clear if all 20 of those team members asked to go will do so. However, we’ve heard that at least one longtime senior member of the team will be making the move.
On Sunday, Gethan Ward at The Tennessean reported that Lyft officials have signed a lease at the Sash & Door Building (pictured below) at Second Avenue and Commerce Street and will grow their office there to 100 by year's end. From there, its Nashville team is forecast to grow to 400 in the coming years.
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.
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