Many Counties Still Waiting for the Economic Recovery

A new report from the National Association of Counties suggests that while progress on economic issues is being made nationally, many counties across the U.S. are still on the road to full recovery.

The national economic picture looks stronger these days, but the National Association of Counties would like to remind you that the devil is in the details.

According to NACO’s County Economic Tracker 2014, released earlier this month, just 2.1 percent of counties in the United States have fully recovered from the recession—leaving most of the 3,069 county economies still on the road to recovery.

“The U.S. economy doesn’t happen at the abstract macroeconomic level. It happens on the ground, where businesses are located and where Americans live and work,” NACO Director of Research Emilia Istrate told U.S. News and World Report. “County economies are building blocks of the regional economies, state economies, and national economy.”

Of the 65 counties that have fully recovered from the recession, most are in parts of the country with smaller populations or that have booming industries like energy or agriculture.

Unemployment has been a particular drag on economic momentum: Just 5 percent of counties nationwide have returned to pre-recession levels of unemployment, and just one of those—Kent County, Michigan—has a population of more than 500,000. And wages have been on the decline in half of the nation’s counties.

But there’s some good news with the bad. The report found that 72 percent of local economies have improved on one of the four main metrics researched—unemployment rate, jobs, GDP, or median home price. And while wages have been declining in many places, 40 percent of the new jobs being created tend to be those that drive higher wages.

“The County Economic Tracker is a reminder that county economies are where Americans feel the national economy,” the report states [PDF]. “Economic data reveals that all county economies faced challenges through the latest downturn, but growth accelerated across county economies in 2014.”

The full report, including a county-by-county breakdown, can be found on NACO’s website.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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