Augusta Business Daily’s Dana Lynn McIntyre asked a question relating to county-level data at my Economic Forecast Breakfast on December 7th. I mentioned that county-level data is often released with a long lag. It just so happened that later that day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their county employment and wages data for the second quarter of 2023 – better six months late than never! Here is what it said.
Two counties saw declines in employment since the second quarter of 2022. Burke County employment fell by 20 percent to 8,842. Edgefield County employment fell 2.3 percent to 5,691. McDuffie and Lincoln County saw the largest increase in employment at 8.7 percent and 8.0 percent, respectively. Because Lincoln County is home to the smallest number of jobs, the eight percent increase represents 100 net new jobs.
The three largest counties in terms of employment all saw small increases. Richmond County employment increased 0.6 percent to almost 105,000. Columbia County employment increased 2 percent to just under 39,000. Aiken County employment increased 3.3 percent to 63,873. Aiken County saw the largest increase in net new jobs at just over 2,000.
In other good news for Lincoln Couty, they recorded the highest annual increase in average weekly wage of 9.5 percent. However, the county still has the lowest weekly wage of the MSA at $723. Aiken and Edgefield Counties in South Carolina both recorded a 5 percent increase in average weekly wage. Although Burke County was the only county MSA to see a fall in average weekly wages (down 3.8 percent), they still have the highest wage at $1,682. Columbia County wage increased 3.2 percent, Richmond County by 0.4 percent, and McDuffie County by 0.9 percent.
Inflation in the second quarter of 2023 was 4.4 percent, so many counties saw declining real wages. Burke County seems to be beginning to feel the effects of declining economic activity around Plant Vogtle now the third and fourth reactors are operational. Lincoln County seems to be doing very well in terms of wages and employment, and as I mentioned in my presentation, they are also attracting firms to the county. I am not sure why, but a recent article in The Economist reported that in 2022 more people moved to places with fewer than 30,000 residents than ones with more than 80,000. Lincoln’s population was 7,726 in 2022.