Recently, when the New York Times profiled a report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on revamped job-growth projections in a post-pandemic landscape, we took that opportunity to review what those numbers say about economic prospects here in the five counties comprising the South Carolina I-77 Region.
As it turns out, the sectors projected to employ these fast-growing occupations over the next few years have a strong presence in the region. Not surprisingly, they are a combination of science/medical professions and the IT industry, categorically network, database, and information security specialists.
More specifically, we crunched some numbers to create what are called location quotients, or LQs. An LQ is simply a ratio between the rate of local jobs and the rate of jobs nationally and a neat, clean way to measure if there is a unique cluster compared to the national rate. In this method, the index value for the nation is set to 1.0; therefore, LQ values between 0.80 and 1.20 imply a location’s job concentration is comparable to the nation; and, values exceeding 1.20 signal a unique cluster, likely attributable to a dynamic local industry sector and workforce, or similar assets. For manufacturing sectors, the likelihood of increased export demand/activity rises relative to a higher LQ value.
We combined the region’s Q3 2020 employment figures for the industries projected to create the jobs identified by the BLS report into a single value and used that to create the region’s first “post-pandemic economy” LQ. While the region’s LQ value of 1.17 is a strong showing, we found that two of our counties – Richland and Lancaster – had LQs of 1.33 and 1.25, respectively. That means the density of jobs in the county for the combined industry exceeds the national average by 33 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
How does this influence the future of our region’s economic trajectory? We interpret a favorable LQ value to mean that the economic sectors employing the specific occupations of the post-pandemic job market are already thriving in our region. Welcome to all you new epidemiologists and medical scientists we have!
Richland County is home to the University of South Carolina, two large hospital systems, and a large insurance IT (itscola) presence. Lancaster County has a fast-growing industrial base that includes sector leaders such as veterinary products manufacturer Nutramax Laboratories, online B2B marketing and sales leader Red Ventures, and Movement Mortgage in the finance space.
Looking at the other counties within our region, York County has long been an economic development success story with its record of being a national leader for job growth, and like Lancaster County (aka, twelfth-fastest growing county east of the Mississippi River since 2010), is part of the dynamic Metro Charlotte market. Meanwhile, Chester and Fairfield counties are nestled in the middle of the corridor, offering proximity to two metro areas but with rural and small-town lifestyle options. These assets make those counties an ideal location for manufacturing plants, evidenced by the continued track record of success they’ve had in attracting significant capex investment from some of the world’s leading corporations.
The economic potential a post-pandemic reality has in store is shared across our counties. Research identified the robust economic sectors creating the jobs of the future are active in the I-77 Region and, coupled with an inventory of ready-to-occupy space and a massive labor force across two metro areas that is fueled by our state’s nationally regarded technical college and workforce development system, our five counties do represent one ideal opportunity.
We can only scratch the surface here about the diversity of the industries that already call the Corridor home, however, we were happy to see so many of the segments they belong to in the BLS database pegged as some of the fastest growing moving forward into a post-pandemic world.