Our status as a regional growth center has resumed. In 2005, our employment growth was second among all of the country’s large regions and first in the South. In 2015, we were fourth in the U.S. and again first in the South.
An Incomplete Recovery
For all the positives, there’s still work to do. We are fortunate to be anchored by a vibrant tourism sector but its ongoing success has served only to extend our vulnerability to outside forces. Robust job growth in one dominant industry is again overshadowing gains across all sectors and resulting in limited progress toward diversification. In 2005, construction accounted for almost one quarter of net job creation; in 2015, tourism accounted for nearly one third.
Challenges also persist in the labor market, where participation remains volatile and underemployment hidden. Wage stagnation has been the hallmark of the recovery nationally but has been particularly pronounced locally, where average weekly wages closed 2015 just $37 higher than in 2010. Much work remains to move the needle on persistent wage and income disparity.
Comfort has been found in a housing recovery that has reversed at least part of the wealth erosion of the previous decade, but the affordability issues of 2005 may yet return. Prices remain some 25 percent below pre-recession highs and sales volume in 2015 actually exceeded that of 2005. However, sustained double-digit price gains, elusive wage growth and the arrival of interest rate hikes in 2016 pose challenges. On the supply side, residential construction has been disciplined and has failed to add significantly to increasingly tight inventory levels.