Friday, February 13, 2009

Growth? What Growth?

For those who are still worried about growth, we have a message for you: there’s nothing to worry about.

That’s right, there is little to no growth in Montgomery County at the moment. That fact is loud and clear from the County Council’s Management and Fiscal Policy Committee’s briefing document on the local economy. Here are a few of the low-lights.

1. Employment
Comparing the first eleven months in 2007 and 2008, Montgomery County’s employment base grew by less than 420 jobs (up 0.08%). The county’s job count was down from a year ago in 10 of the last 16 months, with November 2008 turning out the worst performance in many years. As for unemployment, the county’s rate was 3.7% in November 2008, up from 2.5% from November 2007.

2. Home Sales
Home sales fell 20.5% in 2006, 23.4% in 2007 and 20.6% in 2008. Sales are now at their lowest level in at least 10 years.

3. Home Prices
Home prices fell 7.9% in 2008 and are now lower than in 2005.

4. Residential Property Assessments
For the first time since 1994, the state found that one of the three rotating groups of assessments actually lost value. That is going to hit the county’s budget soon enough.

5. Residential Construction
The number of annual new units built has fallen from nearly 7,500 in 2001 to around 2,200 in 2008. The value of new construction is at its lowest level since 1999.

All of the above explains the county’s calamitous budget deficit, which will have to be closed by eliminating raises for public employees and reducing school and police services.

We finally have a zero-growth economy. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts, everybody!