2015 Benchmark report summary

GOOD NEWS:

  • The population growth rate in Aiken slowed down for 2013, but remains positive and equal to the national rate, and did not fall as much as feared in last year’s report; the population growth rate for North Augusta slowed down in 2013, but still exceeds the national rate 
  • The percentage of residents aged less than 5 years or less than 18 years in Aiken rose in 2013; the percentage of residents aged 65 or older fell slightly for North Augusta in 2013 
  • Educational attainment improved in North Augusta; the percentage of adults with only a high school diploma fell, and the percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher rose 
  • Measured in current dollars, average weekly wages in South Carolina continued to rise in 2014; after falling in 2012 and 2013, current dollar wages in Aiken County rose slightly in 2014 
  • The size of the labor force grew in 2014 for South Carolina, Aiken County and the city of Aiken, after 2 straight years of decline for Aiken 
  • Employment levels rose again in 2014 for South Carolina, setting a new record high for the second straight year 
  • After falling in 2013, employment in Aiken County rose by 1,100 jobs in 2014, setting a new all-time high 
  • After falling in 2012 and 2013, employment rose in the city of Aiken in 2014, exceeding 13,000 jobs for the first time since 2008, and getting close to its pre-recession peak 
  • The unemployment rate dropped from 7.6 to 6.0 for South Carolina in 2014, falling less dramatically for Aiken County and the city of Aiken, with significant reductions in the number of unemployed workers in each area 
  • All net job growth for 2014 in Aiken County came from the services-producing sector; the largest contributors to this growth were the professional and business services sector (+6.9 percent), trade, transportation and utilities (+4.5 percent), financial activities (+3.2 percent), leisure and hospitality (+1.4 percent), and education and health services (+1.2 percent); strong growth in the professional and business services sector and the financial activities sector, which pay relatively high salaries, bode well for possible personal income growth in Aiken County in 2014 
  • After falling in 2012-13 for the first time in many years, retail sales in Aiken surged by 9.4 percent in 2013-14, returning to its historical trend 
  • The number of pending home sales in Aiken County rose again for the third straight year, jumping by 16 percent in 2014; unlike in recent years, sales activity rose for all price ranges, with increased demand being felt across the board 
  • After falling in 2013, the median sales price for homes in Aiken County rose in 2014, suggesting some meaningful upward momentum in home prices 
  • New residential construction in Aiken County rose for 2014, with an increase in building permits for new construction of 17 percent 

SOME CONCERN:

  • The population growth rate for Aiken County has slowed considerably recently, but this slowdown has had only a limited effect on the population growth in Aiken and North Augusta 
  • South Carolina and Aiken County continue to age faster than the Nation as a whole; after falling in 2012, the percentage of Aiken’s population aged 65 or older went back up for 2013 
  • Educational attainment continues to be an issue; the percentage of adults with only a high school diploma rose in 2013 for Aiken County and for the city of Aiken, while the percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher rose slightly for Aiken County 
  • After falling in 2012-13, retail sales in Aiken County turned up in 2013-14, although they still have not returned to their pre-recession peak (about $65 million short) 

URGENT CONCERN:

  • As feared last year, nominal personal income actually declined in Aiken County for 2013; county-level personal income data for 2014 will not be available until late 2015 –hard to predict whether it will return to positive growth in 2014 
  • Median household incomes for South Carolina and Aiken County rose only marginally for 2013, and declined in 2013 for the cities of Aiken and North Augusta 
  • Unfortunately, these nominal wage increases for South Carolina and Aiken County were too small to keep up with inflation, leading to declines in inflation-adjusted wages in South Carolina and Aiken County for a second straight year; real wages in Aiken County have now fallen by almost 7 percent since 2011 
  • Employment within the goods-producing sector in Aiken County (which contains 2 of the top 3 highest-paying sectors) fell again in 2014 for the second straight year; in particular, in 2014 the manufacturing sector lost all the new jobs it added in 2012 and 2013 
  • Retail sales in North Augusta fell in 2013-14 for the second year in a row, and still have not recovered from the recession (about $48 million below their peak in 2004-05) 
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