Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Leventhal Report: MoCo vs. Fairfax, Part Three

How do MoCo and Fairfax compare in economic terms?

Fairfax has been a more prolific creator of jobs than MoCo, passing MoCo in total employment in the mid-1980s. The report states that between 2002 and 2007, Fairfax’s job growth rate (14%) was almost double the rate in MoCo (8%).

Jobs in Fairfax pay more ($72,838 per year) than jobs in MoCo ($65,694). The report does not show whether that gap is due to a different mix of jobs in the two counties or to actual salary differences between like jobs. The two counties offered virtually identical salaries until the mid-1990s, when Fairfax began to pull ahead of MoCo.

In terms of per capita personal income, which includes other income sources than just wages and salaries, the counties are much closer.

The unemployment rate in both counties is lower than the national average, but it has been consistently lower in Fairfax than in MoCo for at least a decade.

There are many, many more statistics in the Leventhal Report than the ones we have discussed, including information on housing, crime, health and much more. But the bottom line of the tax, budget and economic data is this:

MoCo generally charges more taxes than Fairfax. MoCo’s local government spends more in per capita terms than Fairfax. At least in terms of public schools results, MoCo does not appear to hold a large edge – and maybe not any edge – over Fairfax. And Fairfax’s economy is a little bit more dynamic, in terms of job creation, high pay and low unemployment, than MoCo’s economy. In many respects, MoCo and Fairfax have more similarities than differences and both surpass national averages in almost every measurable way. But the Leventhal Report demonstrates a slight and increasingly noticeable competitive edge for Fairfax. Our policy makers at both the state and county levels need to keep that in mind when considering anything that affects that balance.