Have Population and Commuting Patterns Changed In Your Region?

Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Micropolitan Statistical Areas (µSAs) are collections of counties where there is so much interconnectivity between the counties that they should be measured as one economy rather than separate counties.  For example, in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas MSA many individuals live in Tarrant County but work in Dallas County.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) periodically updates the definitions of MSAs and µSAs based on Census commuting and population data. MSAs “have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.” Similarly, µSAs “have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.”

Though the OMB provides historical delineations  and current definitions, it is difficult to find a comprehensive list of changes made to the statistical areas. The current definitions were released in February 2013, and the previous definitions were released in December 2009. The dashboard below allows users to view changes to MSAs and µSAs definitions between the 2009 and 2013.

Using Texas as an example, click through the tabs to see the filters that can be applied to your statistical area.

To summarize the changes in Texas:

  • Hudspeth County was added to the El Paso, TX MSA
  • Oldham County was added to the Amarillo, TX MSA
  • Lynn County was added to the Lubbock, TX MSA
  • Martin County was added to the Midland, TX MSA
  • Falls County was added to the Waco, TX MSA
  • Newton County was added to the Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX MSA
  • Little River County, AR was added to the Texarkana, TX-AR MSA
  • Glasscock County was added to the Big Spring, TX µSA
  • Trinity County was added to the Huntsville, TX µSA
  • Zapata County was added to the Zapata, TX µSA
  • Roberts County was removed from the Pampa, TX µSA
  • Fannin County was removed from the Bonham, TX µSA
  • Burnet County was removed from the Marble Falls, TX µSA
  • Delta County was removed from the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA
  • San Jacinto County was removed from the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX MSA
  • Hood County and Somerville County were removed from the Granbury, TX µSA and absorbed into the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX MSA
  • Calhoun County was removed from the Victoria, TX MSA and added to the Port Lavaca, TX µSA
  • The Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, TX MSA was renamed Killeen-Temple, TX MSA
  • The Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX MSA was renamed Austin-Round Rock, TX MSA
  • The Houston-Sugar Land Baytown, TX MSA was renamed Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX MSA
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Economic Impact: As economy gains, risk of recession seems slight

The current economic expansion that began in June 2009 is now in its 68th month.

That makes it nine months longer than the average of the 11 expansions that occurred between 1945 and 2009, although the last three expansions have lasted an average of 95 months.

Does the current expansion have the strength to continue or will the U.S. economy be heading into a recession?

The continued drop in the price of oil to less than $50 a barrel is occurring, in part, because of the increase in production in the United States and may reflect a drop in demand.

That drop in demand, some point out, is occurring because of weakness in Eurozone economies and a slowdown in growth in China.

Some observers point out that the global weakness will lead to less demand for U.S.-made goods and services, which will slow our growth.

With this scenario, it’s important to recognize that about 13 percent of U.S. gross domestic product came from exports compared with the prior year.

Deflation, which remains a real concern in the Eurozone, could contribute to weakness in their banking system. The most pessimistic analysts also see this impacting our economy, which could translate into a recession.

Those arguing for a recession might also point out that each of the three major stock indices fell about 3 percent early last week, which may signal a recession.

However, we’re not even close to a bear market, which is defined as a 20 percent drop in one of the major U.S. stock market indices. Even if we were, bear markets aren’t always accompanied by recessions.

Over the past 30 years, there have been five bear markets and three recessions.

Pointing toward continued expansion is real gross domestic product growth, which was revised up to a whopping 5 percent annualized rate in the third quarter of 2014. That’s the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2003 when GDP grew at a 6.9 percent annualized rate.

Third quarter growth comes on the heels of a 4.6 percent annualized pace in the second quarter that was partially a rebound from a contraction in the first quarter. The first quarter contraction was mostly attributable to severe winter weather.

Early results on holiday spending reflect a consumer that is loosening up their pocket books.

Of course, lower gas prices are supporting some of that spending. The increase in job hiring also is putting more money into the U.S. economy and creating the momentum to fuel further growth.

Increased demand causes businesses to hire more people and purchase more supplies and equipment which leads to more hiring and more economic growth.

From this perspective, we don’t expect the nation to dip into recession anytime soon.  In fact,we are looking for continued growth in the national economy to the tune of an increase of 3.4 percent in real gross domestic product in 2015 and 3.7 percent in 2016.

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Cost of Living

The cost of living is one of many metrics we examine when assisting site selectors in identifying attractive labor markets for relocations or expansions.

The below map displays the Cost of Living Index for each U.S. metropolitan area. The average cost of living for the nation is set to 100; areas with higher cost of living are shown in red (where the index is greater than 100) and areas with lower cost of living are shown in green (where the index is less than 100).

A quick look at the map shows that higher costs of living are generally found on the east and west coasts. Lower cost of living is not uniform in the interior of the country, however. Pockets of above-average cost of living exist in non-coast metros such as Denver, Minneapolis, and Chicago.

For firms looking to move into new regions, cost of living can serve as a quick proxy for the relative wages of workers in a region, but the relationship between wages and the Cost of Living Index is rarely if ever simple. For site selection purposes, occupation wages should be examined in addition to the cost of living, and the relative difference of wages typically varies depending on the nature of the industry and the mix of occupations employed.

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MSA's Don't Tell the Whole Story

Expanding firms often say skilled labor is one of the most important factors determining where they locate their next operations.  Although most firms know they need accurate labor data, they often don’t consider the importance of using an accurate labor shed that defines where they will be drawing workers.

Both metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) and a specified mile radius around a location can be inaccurate, leading to costly worker shortages or excluding a location that may be ideal. A drive-time analysis, such as that available in Chmura Economics’ JobsEQ® tool, is needed to prevent such problems.  

Two examples illustrate the need to use drive times to measure a labor shed.

A firm located in the center of Isle of Wight County, Virginia would overstate the talent it could draw if they used the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News MSA or a 50-mile radius to define its labor pool. Almost 2,100 machinists work in the MSA and nearly 2,300 work within a 50-mile radius of the firm location. However, the presence of the Chesapeake Bay and its tunnels, and James River limit the number of workers available within a 45-minute commute—only 620 machinists work within that drive time. Similar shortages are found with most occupations. About 900 structural metal fabricators and fitters work in the MSA and nearly 960 are within a 50-mile radius but less than 300 work within a 45-minute drive time.

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News MSA - 50 Mile Radius & 45 Min Drive-Time

The opposite problem occurs for a firm located in the center of the Akron MSA in Northeast Ohio. Almost 2,000 machinists work in the Akron MSA. Because this MSA is close to the Cleveland MSA, a 60-minute drive time for a firm located in the center of the MSA identifies a much larger pool of nearly 11,000 machinists.  The larger labor pool is true for all occupations. About 1,400 application software developers work in the Akron MSA but nearly 7,000 work within a 60-minute drive time. Nearly 4,000 bookkeeping and audit clerks work in the Akron MSA and over 21,000 work within a 60-minute drive time.

Akron MSA - 60 Minute Drive-Time

The bottom line is that drive-time analysis is crucial for expanding firms to ensure that their labor force needs will be met.

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Announcing JobsEQ 3.1

We are pleased to announce the release of JobsEQ 3.1!  This is a very exciting release, bringing thorough and detailed labor data to our users’ fingertips. Here are the major components of today’s release:

Labor Data at the Zip-Code Level

Chmura has computed and rigorously tested a detailed, unsuppressed dataset at the zip-code level that is now available in nearly all JobsEQ analytics. On the industry side, zip level data are available down to 6-digit NAICS codes, and for occupations, down to 6-digit SOC codes. And if zip-codes aren’t detailed enough for your needs, contact us for information on how Chmura’s team of expert economists can do a custom analysis of your labor market using our exclusive block-level labor data.

Map: Drive-Time vs 50 Mile RadiusCustom Regions by Drive Time

Metropolitan areas (MSAs) and simple n-mile radius commonly used in desktop analysis don’t tell the whole story, and can often misrepresent your labor market. JobsEQ now allows users to run analytics based on custom drivetime regions. This powerful, yet easy to use tool, allows our users to gain an accurate picture of their labor market, regional conditions, and demographics. 

Occupation Profile Report

JobsEQ 3.1 adds another powerful report to your toolkit, the Occupation Profile Report (download a sample). With the click of a button, this report provides an overview of employment, wages, geographic distribution, and educational pipeline. Combined with the zip-level data and the drive time feature, JobsEQ reports pack an unprecedented amount of information into an easy-to-read download.  Also related: view a sample of the JobsEQ Economic Overview Report.

Access Today

JobsEQ 3.1 is available to existing users immediately through your normal login. New users can contact sales to schedule a demo or start your subscription today.

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