On May 19, 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the first tranche of county-level, 2020Q4 data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program, which gives us the most complete picture of the labor market available from federal surveys of employers.
As you might predict, it was not pretty. Nationally, by the end of 2020, employment was down by more than six percent, compared to a year earlier. In markets heavily dependent on tourism, job losses ranged from about -14% in Las Vegas to -23% in Maui. Many oil and gas dependent economies, such as Midland (-17%), experienced similar job losses. Previously high-flying economies, including Portland (-11%) and Denver (-10%), came down to earth, as well.
But five counties managed to escape 2020 with net job gains:
- Utah County, UT (+3.8%)
- Davis County, UT (+2.3%)
- Rutherford County, TN (+0.5%)
- Elkhart, IN (+0.2%)
- Cleveland, OK (+0.1%)
I’ve written about Utah before, but the other interesting commonality is manufacturing. In Elkhart County, it’s RVs. In Rutherford County, it’s automotive. In Davis County, it’s aerospace.
Manufacturing plays a complicated role in economic development, but it appears to have carried some counties through a very difficult 2020.
The data released last week covered just the 358 largest counties. The full county-level data update will be out on June 2. Our first look at 2021Q1 is scheduled for August.