Albemarle’s “Hidden” Economic Slowdown Report

By. Neil Williamson, President

Buried in the “For Information Only” portion of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors’ Wednesday agenda, in an attachment to a staff report FY 15 General Fund Q1 Report; Revised FY 15 Revenue Projections Report; and Quarterly Economic Indicators Report the Free Enterprise Forum found a most interesting quote:

This piece of information, along with the recent slowdown in the decline in the County’s unemployment rate, stands in contrast with the somewhat positive collective revenue stream data. The jobs base and unemployment rate information, nonetheless, suggests that Albemarle entered an economic slowdown in the past year.

The six page report, written by Albemarle’s Manager of Economic Analysis annegative-news-in-the-mediad Forecasting, Steven Alshouse, and their  Chief of Financial Management Jacob Sumner, provided several important linkages to the determination of an economic slowdown, in the face of an improving U.S. Economy.  Even as we witness sales tax revenue increases, this report contends that jobs remain a real concern for Albemarle County’s long term economic health.

Those who follow the Free Enterprise Forum Blog may recall that we raised concerns in October about the employment picture when we took a hard look at Do Jobs Fit in Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan?

The economic impact of Albemarle’s arrogance may very well now be coming home to roost. The latest Jobs Report from the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce reported significant job growth across the region. If you look back 10 years, Albemarle’s private employment has grown by over 21% but dig a little deeper and you will find private sector employment in Albemarle County is 3.4% lower today than it was in 2007.

Now in an Albemarle County produced document the very same data set is being analyzed with similar results only with more recent data:

As shown on Table I, the average monthly total number of jobs in the County appears to have declined modestly from 42,029 in Q3 FY 13 to 48,910 in Q3 FY 14, or by 119 positions (-0.24%)….

Table I reveals that the private sector lost 73 positions between Q3 FY 13 and Q3 FY 14, but that the private sector’s share of the total number of jobs in the County remained essentially unchanged, at 67.02% of the jobs base, compared with 67.01% in Q3 FY 13. During this time frame, the public sector experienced a net loss of 46 jobs.

The report found other economic indicators that were equally foreboding:

Between Q1 FY 14 and Q1 FY 15 the County’s Inspection Fees, which reflect current development, increased modestly, by 3.76%. Other Development Fees, a measure related more to future development than to current development, dropped substantially, by 18.47%. It is not clear whether this drop represents a statistical fluke or whether the decline might indicate the start of a longer-term trend.

As Albemarle continues to move (at a glacial pace) toward the hiring of an Economic Development Director and establishment of an Economic Development Department, one might ask why was this report buried?

If it was good news would this have been a part of the regular agenda?

Based on my understanding of their meeting rules, it is the prerogative of any supervisor to have this agenda item pulled off the information section and discussed in open meeting.

So the question to the members of Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors is not if they can ask for a discussion of this agenda item but rather will they?

And if they do, what, if any,  policy shifts might they consider to change this trend?

Stay tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit:  purpologydotcom.files.wordpress.com

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