Asheville Metro Economic Report – 2020 Third Quarter

December 22, 2020

Highlights:

The four-county Asheville metro (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties) showed signs of recovery in the third quarter, as businesses adjusted to safety guidelines and the public’s need for a sense of well-being due to the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, employment dropped by an average of 10.6 percent, while the metro’s unemployment rate averaged 7.7 percent.

• In the third quarter of 2020, employment in the Asheville metro dropped by an average of 10.6 percent, the highest drop among metros in the state. The decline represents an average loss of 21,000 jobs from a year earlier.

• With an average of 7.7 percent in the third quarter of 2020, Asheville metro’s unemployment rate declined each month in the quarter from a high of 9.3 percent in July to 6.9 percent in September.

• Asheville metro’s average unemployment rate for the quarter is fifth highest among the state’s fifteen metros: an improvement from the previous quarter’s highest unemployment rate in the state.

• Eight of eleven major industry sectors lost employment in the third quarter of 2020 when compared to one-year earlier; Leisure and Hospitality led with a net loss of 9,700 jobs followed by Health Services which dropped 3,800 jobs. Construction added 200 jobs. These numbers reflect an improvement compared to 2020’s second quarter.

• Buncombe County Lodging Sales totaled $103 million in the third quarter; $22 million or 17.6 percent below the third quarter of 2019.

• Total Passenger Traffic at the Asheville Regional Airport equaled 158,634 in the third quarter of 2020; a 64.9 percent decline from a year earlier.

• Taxable retail sales in the Asheville metro totaled $2,134,861,548 ($2.1 billion) in the third quarter; 1.9 percent greater than one-year earlier.

Detailed Analysis:
Employment

In the third quarter of 2020, employment in the Asheville metro dropped by an average of 10.6 percent (Figure 1). The decline represents an average loss of 21,000 jobs from a year earlier. While Asheville metro’s third quarter decline is greater than the national average rate of -7.0 percent and the statewide rate of -6.6 percent, it is an improvement compared to the previous quarter.

Figure 1
Total Employment
Monthly Year-to-Year
Percent Change

Figure 1 Total Employment Monthly Year-Year Percent Change 2020 Q3
Source: NC Division of Employment Security

Asheville metro’s percentage rate of employment decline over the third quarter remained the greatest among the state’s fifteen metros (Figure 2).  Each metro lost employment over the quarter, as did the state and the nation.  Twelve metros exceeded the national rate of decline.  

Figure 2
2020 3Q Average
North Carolina Metros
Employment One-Year Percent Change

Figure 2 2020 3Q Average NC Metros Employment One-Year Percent Change _JPS CPA Asheville Metro Report 2020 Q3

Source: NC Division of Employment Security


With an average of 7.7 percent in the third quarter of 2020, Asheville’s unemployment rate continued to drop after the peak of 16.2 percent in the month of April (Figure 3). The unemployment rate for the third quarter translates into roughly 17,400 Asheville metro residents actively seeking employment.  

Asheville metro’s average unemployment rate for the third quarter was slightly higher than the statewide average of 7.5 percent, but lower than the national average of 8.9 percent (Figure 4).

Figure 3
Unemployment Rates (%)

Figure 3 Unemployment Rates % _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 3Q

Source: NC Division of Employment Security

Figure 4
Unemployment Rate (%)
2020 3Q Average

Figure 4 Unemployment Rate % 2020 3Q Average _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 3Q
Source: NC Division of Employment Security

Eight of eleven major industry sectors lost employment in the third quarter of 2020 when compared to one-year earlier. Leisure and Hospitality led with a net loss of 9,700 jobs followed by Health Services which dropped 3,800 jobs (Figure 5); these numbers reflected improvement from the previous quarter. The Construction sector added 200 jobs while both the Wholesale Trade sector and the Transportation & Warehousing sector remained unchanged.   

Figure 5
Asheville Metro – 2020 3Q
Major Industry Employment
One-Year Change

Figure 5 Asheville Metro 2020 3Q Major Industry Employment One-Year Change _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3

Totals rounded to nearest 100
Source: NC Division of Employment Security

Wages

Private industry average hourly wages in the Asheville metro equaled $24.37 in the third quarter, a 5.1 percent gain from a year earlier (Figure 6). The increase marks the fifth consecutive quarter with positive year-over-year gains.   

Asheville’s third quarter hourly wages place it seventh among the fifteen metros in the state.  Asheville metro remains below the statewide and national averages (Figure 7).  

Figure 6
Asheville Metro
Average Hourly Wages
Private Industry

Figure 6 Asheville Metro Average hourly Wages Private Industry _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3
Source: NC Division of Employment Security

Figure 7
North Carolina Metros – 2020 3Q
Average Hourly Earnings
Private Industry

Figure 7 NC Metros 2020 3Q Average Hourly Earnings Private Industry _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3

Source: NC Division of Employment Security

Leisure & Hospitality

Buncombe County Lodging Sales totaled $102.9 million in the third quarter; $22 million or 17.6 percent below the third quarter of 2019 (Figure 8 and Figure 9). In 2020, third quarter lodging sales were greater than the first and second quarters combined.

Figure 8
Buncombe County
Lodging Sales

Figure 8 Buncombe County Lodging Sales - JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 3Q
Source: Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

Figure 9
Buncombe County
Lodging Sales
Quarterly Year-Year Change (%)

Figure 9 Buncombe County Lodging Sales Quarterly Year to Year Change % _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 3Q
Source: Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

Hotel Occupancy in Buncombe County averaged 58.4 percent in the third quarter of 2020, the lowest percentage of available rooms sold in the third quarter over the past decade (Figure 10).

Figure 10
Buncombe County
Hotel Occupancy

Figure 10 Buncombe County Hotel Occupancy _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3
Source: Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

Total Passenger Traffic at the Asheville Regional Airport equaled 158,634 in the third quarter of 2020, a 64.9 percent decline compared to the third quarter a year earlier (Figure 11 and Figure 12).

Figure 11
Asheville Regional Airport
Total Passengers

Figure 11 Asheville Regional Airport Total Passengers _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3
Source: Asheville Regional Airport

Figure 12
Asheville Regional Airport
Total Passengers
Quarterly Year-to-Year Change (%)

Figure 12 Asheville Regional Airport Total Passengers _ Quarterly Year to Year Change Percentage _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Report 2020 Q3
Source: Asheville Regional Airport


Housing

In the third quarter 2,567 home sales closed in the Asheville metro with an average sales price of $391,364 and a median sales price of $323,250 (Figure 13). The number of closed homes sales is 9.7 percent above the number closed one-year earlier, while over the same period the average sales price gained 18.1 percent and the median price increased by 13.6 percent (Figure 14). The third quarter saw 2,830 new home listings, just above 2,820 listed in the third quarter of 2019.   

Figure 13
Asheville Metro
Home Sales

Figure 13 Asheville metro Home Sales _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3

Source: NCMMLS, provided by Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association

Figure 14
Asheville Metro
Home Sales Trends
Quarterly Year-to-Year Change (%)

Figure 14 Asheville Metro Home Sales Trends Quarterly Year to Year % _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3
Source: NCMMLS, provided by Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association

At 5.4 percent, Asheville metro’s Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate in the third quarter is higher than the national average of 4.7 percent and on par with the statewide pace (Figure 15). The 2020 third quarter rate outpaced 2019 third quarter which was 4.5% in the Asheville metro.  

Figure 15
North Carolina Metros
Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate (%)
2020 3Q

Figure 15 NC Metro Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate % 2020 3Q _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3
Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency


Estimated permit activity for new residential building totaled 736 units in the third quarter with a value of $184 million (Figure 16). Coincidentally, in percentage terms, the total number of units permitted, and the total value are each up 5.9 percent from one year earlier. Permitted multi-family units totaled 156, accounting for 21 percent of the total. 

Figure 16
Asheville Metro
Estimated Residential Building Permits Activity*

Figure 16 Asheville Metro Estimated Residential Building Permits Activity _ JPS Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3
*Based on a survey of permitting agencies. The Census Bureau provides estimates for any missing
agency data, which typically amounts to less than 20% of the total permits.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Retail Sales

Taxable retail sales in the Asheville metro totaled $2,134,861,548 ($2.1 billion) in the third quarter; 1.9 percent more than one-year earlier (Figure 17 and Figure 18).  

Figure 17
Asheville Metro
Total Taxable Retail Sales

Figure 17 Asheville Metro Total Taxable Retail Sales _ JPS Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3
Includes collections of penalties, interest, and sales & use tax; and may reflect activity from prior periods.
Source: NC Department of Revenue

Figure 18
Asheville Metro
Quarterly Year-to-Year Change (%)

Figure 18 Asheville Metro Quarterly Year to Year Change Percentage _ JPS CPA Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Q3
Includes collections of penalties, interest, and sales & use tax; and may reflect activity from prior periods.
Source: NC Department of Revenue

 

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