For the most part, 2018 was a good year for the economy of Glynn County, and 2019 looks to bring more of the same.
Business growth in 2018 was steady and balanced across most local industries. Construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, health care and hospitality all posted increases in employment.
The job gains were especially impressive in construction. The sector added 120 jobs in Glynn in 2018, an increase of almost 9 percent.
The increase in manufacturing jobs here is a slice of the national trend. U.S. manufacturing employment has increased every year since 2010 — the longest sustained increase since the 1960s and a reversal of the downward trend that began in 1980.
Glynn’s manufacturing gains have been proportionally more modest than Georgia’s or the nation’s, but we are sharing in the larger trend.
Glynn’s unemployment rate now stands at 3.6 percent, down from 4.2 percent a year ago. Our current rate is below the national rate of 3.9 percent and dead even with Georgia’s unemployment rate.
Perhaps the most important labor market development is that the local labor force is growing again.
Between 2008 and 2014, Glynn’s labor force contracted by 9 percent — far greater than the 2 percent recession-induced contraction in Georgia or the 0.4 percent contraction in the U.S.
But since 2014, Glynn’s labor force has increased by 6 percent. Local economic growth is finally pulling people back into the labor force.
Glynn’s largest industry — hospitality and tourism — is growing nicely. Activity in the sector was up a modest 2.5 percent in 2018. More than 3 million overnight visitors came to the Golden Isles in 2018, generating $39 million in local tax revenue and a full economic impact of $1.7 billion.
The government shutdown hurt our hospitality and tourism sector bad, however. Many groups associated with FLETC canceled their visits. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in hotel stays alone were lost.
Glynn’s retail sector is cooking. Retail activity jumped 11 percent in 2018, the largest annual increase since 2006. The jump was most welcome, for our retail sector has truly struggled since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007.
Even with the bump in 2018, Glynn retail activity, adjusted for inflation, is still below its 2007 level.
Glynn’s construction sector also had a nice 2018. Residential building permits were up 6 percent for the year, while the value of residential construction was up almost 11 percent.
Activity at the Port of Brunswick was strong in 2018, but off a bit from the previous year. 525 ships visited the port, carrying 2.3 million short tons of cargo.
Look for those numbers to take off in the coming years, as the port significantly increases its capacity.
That’s the good news on the local economy.
The distressing news is that Glynn’s poverty rates remain stubbornly high.
The nation’s overall poverty rate — the percentage of people in the population who live below poverty thresholds — is currently 12.3 percent. Georgia’s is 15.1 percent. Glynn’s is 17 percent.
Child poverty rates are worse. The nation’s child poverty rate — the percentage of people aged 17 or less who live below poverty thresholds — is currently 17.5 percent. Georgia’s child poverty rate is 21.5 percent. Glynn’s child poverty rate is 29.4 percent.
Glynn’s economy has grown each year since 2014. Over the same time, its child poverty rate has fallen from 30 percent to 29.4 percent, a mere 0.6 of a percentage point. That’s distressing.