Rowan County trending in the right direction

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rowan County’s economy is heading in the right direction, but it’s slightly behind other mid-sized counties around the country in its recovery from the recession.

The National Association of Counties has a neat tool that lets people compare counties across the nation based on how well they’re doing in the recovery. It’s called the “county economic tracker” and uses four categories — unemployment rate, jobs growth rate, economic output growth rate and median home prices growth rate — to judge how far along a county has come in its recovery.

The information is at

A base point, set sometime before the recession started, is established in each category, and a county is said to have ‘recovered” in a category if it has gotten back to the base point.

For example, Rowan County’s unemployment rate has been falling, but it isn’t back to the level it was at the start of 2006 — the base point. So in that category, Rowan is said to still be recovering, but has not yet recovered.

Rowan is recovering in three of the four categories and has recovered in one of them. The three still in recovery are home prices, jobs growth and unemployment.The county has recovered, and has surpassed its base point, in its economic output growth rate.

Rowan County is pretty even with other mid-sized counties when it comes to unemployment and median home prices. It is behind in jobs growth and economic output. But all the trends are going in the right direction.

Neighboring Cabarrus, Stanly and Davidson counties have recovered in two categories. Davie county has recovered in one, and Iredell has recovered in three categories.

In North Carolina, counties that are more urban have recovered in two or three categories while the more rural counties tend to have recovered in one category or none at all.

Across the country, the situation is mixed. The best picture is in Texas and the Great Plains — where the oil boom is happening. The Carolinas are doing better than the rest of the South. The Midwest has patches of good and bad, as does the Northeast. And things don’t look so great out West.

A lot of people, maybe most, still have doubts about the economy.

It’s hard to see improvement on a day to day basis. It’s a question of “How were things last year, or the year before, and how are they now?”

Poverty rates are still too high, but they were too high 10 years ago.

Everyone knows someone who is out of a job, but a lot people know someone who just got hired too.

Economist Eric Hake, of Catawba College, probably put it best when he said the economy is growing, but not fast enough.

Not fast enough to fix the damage caused by the 2008 collapse. Not fast enough to see incomes increase, unless you’re already rich.

Not fast enough to give families a sense of comfort about the future. Not fast enough to quell protests and crises across the globe.

The long recovery, and Hake said each recovery is taking longer than the previous one, should have everyone thinking about what’s wrong with our economic system and how to fix it.

Clutching our money and hoping for the best won’t prevent the next collapse.