1-16-2021 – Before coronavirus, county’s growth was steady

Posted on: January 19th, 2021 by admin

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January 16, 2021

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BY GUY LUCAS

GUYLUCAS@NEWSTOPICNEWS.COM

 

Yet another report documents that Caldwell County’s economy was humming in the months before the coronavirus-related shutdowns last spring.

 

Caldwell County’s gross domestic product — the total monetary value of all goods and services produced in the county — during 2019 grew a healthy 2.3% from the previous year, to a total of about $2.37 billion, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’ annual county-by-county report.

 

That’s the sixth straight year of growth since 2013, when the county’s GDP dropped to about $1.87 billion after the Great Recession. The overall growth since 2013 amounts to 26.8%.

 

Figures showing each county’s total GDP for 2020 won’t be available until late 2021.

 

One thing that stands out over the three most recent years of growth is how steady Caldwell’s growth was com-pared to its neighbors: between 2.3 and 2.8% each year for Caldwell, while Burke County’s highest rate during those years was 2.2% from 2018 to 2019 and its lowest was -1.5% from 2016 to 2017; Wilkes County’s highest was 0.4% from 2016 to 2017 and its GDP shrank the next two years; and Catawba County, by far the region’s largest economy, saw its GDP  growth slow from 2.5% to 1.0% over the same period.

 

Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission, said that the long-term improvement is particularly encouraging.

 

“I tend not to get excited about a single report or a single measurement of anything, good or bad,” she said. “I do, however, look at numbers over time when we can see year-over-year comparisons.”

 

The data adds to other evidence, such as annual measures of the average private-sector wage in each county, showing Caldwell gaining ground relative to its immediate neighbors.

 

In December the N.C. Labor and Economic Analysis Division reported that the average private sector wage — the average annual pay of all non-government full-time jobs — in Caldwell County from mid-2019 to mid-2020 was $41,157, up 28.9% from 2015. Catawba County’s average 2020 wage was $43,920, up 19.5% since 2015, and Burke’s average 2020 wage was $37,414, up 13.6% since 2015.

 

“GDP, average private-sector wages, residential housing starts — we look to affect all of those and others in a positive way and to see measured growth over time,” Murray said.

 

Caldwell’s annual gross domestic product is closing in on Burke’s, which was $2.52 billion, just a little more than $150,000 more than Caldwell’s.

 

Catawba’s GDP of $8.4 billion in 2019 ranked 10th in the state, so even though it saw only 1% growth from 2018, that still amounted to a gain of more than $840,000, far more than Caldwell’s growth in monetary value.

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