The I-77 region received fantastic news this month when the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that York County, SC had the strongest job growth from September 2015 – September 2016 among the 345 largest US counties, a clear signal of a healthy economy. Another indicator, Annual Average Growth Rate (AAGR), frames job growth through a larger context revealing what areas within our region have sustained job growth.
For this research, we utilized 2010 – 2015 annual employment data from Chmura Economics’ JobsEQ platform, averaging the annual changes in employment over this period. The geographies studied are ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs), differing slightly than USPS ZIP Code service areas. Only ZCTAs that were entirely or predominantly in our counties were tabulated, resulting in a few areas of our region with no data. Once the AAGR was calculated we sorted the table and mapped it with our GIS software, ESRI’s ArcGIS.
Visualizing the data, one can quickly discern where sustained job growth is occurring in the I-77 region and where job growth may be more erratic. We summarize patterns below, but it should be noted only four ZCTAs in our region did not have positive AAGR during this period; however, as a whole the region’s sustained employment growth reflects positively on our member counties and their economic development efforts.
As a preface, both South Carolina and the I-77 region experienced an AAGR of 2% during this period, a steady rate for the years coming out of the recession. The map highlights in yellow those ZCTA’s with a rate in the 90th percentile, above 5.0% AAGR.
- Fairfield County has the top two highest AAGRs in our region and three of the top five. In fact, with an AAGR of 60%, 29015 is South Carolina's best performing ZCTA! This can be attributed to the on-going expansion of the VC Summer Nuclear Generating Station but also as development pushes further north from Columbia. At the county level Fairfield has the highest rate as well at 9.5%.
- York County’s strongest ZCTAs also benefit from proximity, but on their end of I-77 it’s due to the growth of Charlotte NC. Fort Mill/Tega Cay is the ZCTA closest to Charlotte that is still in South Carolina and its AAGR was 7.5%. York County’s highest AAGR at 8% is Smyrna, likely attributed to the widening and realignment of SC Highway 5 and its connection to I-85. It should be noted that York County SC is the 2nd largest county by population in the Charlotte metro area. At the county level York's AAGR was 2.9%.
- Chester County’s highest AAGR falls in the 29730 ZCTA where the county has been focusing economic development and site readiness efforts along SC Highway 9. Two projects nearing completion in this corridor, Poly America and Giti Tire, have pledged 300 and 1,700 direct new jobs respectively. After a slight decrease from 2010 - 2011, Chester's county-level AAGR is 1.3%
- Richland County has a high share of its ZCTAs with an AAGR above 2%, but its standout, 29061, is heavily influenced by Fort Jackson and McEntire Joint National Guard Base. Richland's county-level AAGR is 1.0%, primarily due to having such a large number of jobs as it's base, making it more difficult to move the needle.
As companies break ground and cut ribbons on new facilities and our county-level partners continue to leverage regional assets for economic growth, we expect the results of this research will only improve in the foreseeable future.