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Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 Second Quarter

Highlights:

In the second quarter of 2021, the four-county Asheville metro (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison counties) continued recovery while navigating alongside the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to the low points experienced broadly a year earlier, overall gains were widespread in second quarter 2021. 

  • In the second quarter of 2021, the Asheville Metro gained an average 10.5 percent employment, or 17,700 jobs compared to a year earlier.
  • Averaging 4.1 percent over the second quarter of 2021, Asheville’s unemployment rate continued to drop and remained among the lowest of the state’s fifteen metros, as well as below both the state and national average.

  • All major industries except for Professional and Business Services added employment in the second quarter of 2021 when compared to a year earlier.   

  • Buncombe County Lodging Sales totaled approximately $150 million in the second quarter; a considerable rebound compared to the pandemic-induced low of approximately $31 million in the second quarter of 2020.

  • Total Passenger Traffic at the Asheville Regional Airport also rallied and equaled 376,805 in the second quarter of 2021, a 559.5 percent increase compared to a year earlier.

  • The Average Sales Price of homes sold was $450,595 in the second quarter, an increase of 31.1 percent compared to a year earlier.

  • Taxable retail sales in the Asheville metro totaled approximately $2.6 billion in the second quarter and marked a high point looking back at least five years.


Detailed Analysis:

Employment

In the second quarter of 2021, net new employment in the Asheville metro increased by an overall average of 10.5 percent (Figure 1 and Figure 2). This growth rate represented an average increase of 17,700 jobs compared to a year earlier and signaled steps toward recovery from the effects of the pandemic.  Asheville metro’s growth rate surpassed the statewide rate of 8.0 percent and the national average of 8.5 percent (Figure 2). 

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

Figure 1 Total Employment Monthly Year-Year Percent Change in Asheville Metro 2021 Q2 - JPS CPA
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

Each metro gained employment compared to a year earlier, as did the state and nation. Asheville metro’s percentage rate of employment gain over the second quarter was the second highest among the state’s fifteen metros (Figure 2). 

 

 Figure 2
 2021 2Q Average
North Carolina Metros
Employment One-Year Percent Change
Figure 2 2021 Q2 Average NC Metros Employment One-Year Percent Change - 2021 2Q Asheville Metro Econ Report
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

Averaging 4.1 percent over the second quarter of 2021, Asheville’s unemployment rate was lower compared to the state’s average of 4.6 percent and the national average of 5.8 percent (Figure 3 and Figure 4).  Asheville metro’s rate was also among the lowest of the state metros (Figure 4).  However, continued fluctuation in the labor force remained a factor. 

The second quarter unemployment rate translated into roughly 9,300 people who were unemployed. This is a considerable decline compared to April and May 2020 when, due to the pandemic, Asheville metro experienced its highest unemployment rate since 1990.

 

Figure 3
Unemployment Rate (%)
Figure 3 Unemployment Rate % in Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 Q2 - JPS CPA
Source: NC Department of Commerce
 

Figure 4

Unemployment Rate (%)
2021 2Q Average
Figure 4 Unemployment Rate (%)  2021 2Q Average - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 Q2 - JPS CPA
Source: NC Department of Commerce

 

In the second quarter of 2021, ten of eleven major industries increased employment compared to one year earlier. Leisure and Hospitality’s net increase of 9,400 jobs led overall employment gains and made up over half of total nonfarm employment growth (Figure 5).  Professional & Business Services experienced a decline of 100 jobs compared to the second quarter of 2020.  

 

Figure 5
Asheville Metro – 2021 2Q
Major Industry Employment
One-Year Change
Figure 5 Asheville Metro 2021 Q2 - Major Industry Employment - One-Year Change - Asheville Metro Econ Report 2021 Q2 - JPS CPA
Totals rounded to nearest 100
Excludes ‘Other Services’
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics



Wages 
 

Private industry average hourly wages in the Asheville metro reached $26.52 in the second quarter 2021, a 12.8 percent increase from a year earlier (Figure 6). This marked the eighth consecutive quarter with positive year-over-year gains; however, compared to first quarter 2021, there was a slight decrease.   

Asheville metro’s second quarter average hourly wages placed it fifth highest among the fifteen metros in the state. Asheville metro was lower compared to the statewide average of $27.56 and the national average of $30.28 (Figure 7).

 

Figure 6
Asheville Metro
Average Hourly Wages
Private Industry
Figure 6 Asheville Metro Average Hourly Wages Private Industry - 2021 2Q - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q  - JPS CPA
Source: NC Department of Commerce
 

Figure 7

North Carolina Metros – 2021 2Q
Average Hourly Wages
Private Industry
Figure 7 NC Metros 2021 2Q Average Hourly Wages Private Industry_ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q _ JPS CPA
Source: NC Department of Commerce

 

Leisure & Hospitality

Buncombe County Lodging Sales totaled $149,823,547 in the second quarter for an increase of 384.5 percent compared to a year earlier when, due to the pandemic, sales had dropped to $30,926,297 (Figure 8 and Figure 9).  Second quarter lodging sales in 2021 set a quarterly record dating back at least five years.

 

Figure 8
Buncombe County
Lodging Sales
Figure 8 Buncombe County Lodging Sales _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q - JPS CPA
Source: Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority
 

Figure 9

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

Figurre 9 Buncombe County Lodging Sales Quarterly Year-Year Change Percentage - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 Q2 - JPS CPA

Source: Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

 

Hotel Occupancy in Buncombe County rose to an average 73.5 percent in the second quarter of 2021, an increase compared to the five previous quarters (Figure 10). 

 

Figure 10
Buncombe County
Hotel Occupancy
Figure 10 Buncombe County Hotel Occupancy - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q - JPS CPA
Source: Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

 


Passenger Traffic at the Asheville Regional Airport experienced strong gains totaling 376,805 in the second quarter of 2021, representing a 559.5 percent increase compared to a year earlier when the pandemic restrained most air travel (Figure 11 and Figure 12).   

 

Figure 11
Asheville Regional Airport
Total Passengers
Figure 11 Asheville Regional Airport Total Passengers - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q - JPS CPA
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 - Asheville Metro Report 2021 2Q - JPS CPA
Source: Asheville Regional Airport

 


Housing

In the second quarter of 2021 there were 3,092 new listings and 2,428 closed sales in the Asheville metro (Figure 13). Compared to the second quarter a year prior, the number of new listings was 23.5 percent higher. The number of closed home sales was 47.3 percent higher than the number closed a year prior.

The second quarter average sales price was $450,595 while the median sales price was $364,167. The average sales price increased 31.1 percent and the median sales price increased by 21.4 percent year-over-year (Figure 14).  

 

Figure 13
Asheville Metro
Home Sales
Figure 13 Asheville Metro Home Sales - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q - JPS CPA
Source: Canopy 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 Change % - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q - JPS CPA
Source: Canopy REALTOR® Association

 

At 13.0 percent, Asheville metro’s Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate surpassed the national rate of 11.9 percent and the statewide rate of 12.5 percent in the second quarter of 2021 (Figure 15). This ranked Asheville fourth among the state metros and marked the highest appreciation rate dating back as far as five years.

 

Figure 15
North Carolina Metros
Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate (%)
2021 2Q
Figure 15 NC Metro Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate % 2021 2Q - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q - JPS CPA
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Estimated permit activity for new residential building totaled 946 units in the second quarter 2021 for single family and multi-family units combined (Figure 16). The total value of $244 million exceeded each quarter going back as far as five years. In the second quarter, the total number of units permitted was up 51.4 percent and the total value was up 52.1 percent from one-year earlier. Permitted multi-family units totaled 313, accounting for 33 percent of building permits. 

 

Figure 16
Asheville Metro
Estimated Residential Building Permits Activity*
Figure 16 Asheville Metro Estimated Residential Building Permits Activity - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q - JPS CPA
*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: US Census Bureau

 

Retail Sales

Taxable retail sales in the Asheville metro totaled $2,545,262,250 ($2.6 billion) in the second quarter of 2021 and marked the highest quarterly retail sales dating back at least five years. This represented a 39.1 percent increase compared to a year earlier (Figure 17 and Figure 18).

Figure 17
Asheville Metro
Total Taxable Retail Sales
Figure 17 Asheville Metro - Total Taxable Retail Sales - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q - JPS CPA
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
Total Taxable Retail Sales
Quarterly Year-to-Year Change (%)
Figure 18 Asheville Metro  Total Taxable Retail Sales  Quarterly Year-to-Year Change %  - Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 2Q  - JPS CPA
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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End note: Data reflects a snapshot or point in time, September 2021, and may be subject to periodic adjustment.