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Asheville Metro Economic Report – 2021 Third Quarter

Highlights:

In the third 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 in third quarter 2021 were widespread. 

  • In the third quarter of 2021, the Asheville Metro gained an average 3.7 percent employment, or 6,600 jobs compared to a year earlier.

  • Averaging 3.7 percent over the third 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 Health Services added employment in the third quarter of 2021 when compared to a year earlier.   
  • Buncombe County Lodging Sales totaled approximately $172 million in the third 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 456,069 in the third quarter of 2021, a 187.5 percent increase compared to a year earlier.
  • The Average Sales Price of homes sold was $456,957 in the third quarter, an increase of 16.8 percent compared to a year earlier.

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


Detailed Analysis:

Employment

In the third quarter of 2021, employment in the Asheville metro increased by an overall average of 3.7 percent (Figure 1 and Figure 2). This growth rate represented an average increase of 6,600 jobs compared to a year earlier and signaled further steps toward recovery from the effects of the pandemic. However, Asheville’s average growth rate was below the statewide rate of 4.2 percent and the national average of 4.6 percent (Figure 2).

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

Figure 1 Total Employment Monthly Year-Year Percent Change Asheville Metro 2021 Q3 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 third quarter was lower than eight of the state’s fifteen metros (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2
2021 3Q Average
North Carolina Metros
Employment One-Year Percent Change

Figure 2 2021 3Q Average NC Metros Employment One-Year Percent Change 2021 3Q Asheville Metro Econ Report JPS CPA

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics


Averaging 3.7 percent over the third quarter of 2021, Asheville’s unemployment rate was lower compared to the state’s average of 4.3 percent and the national average of 5.2 percent (Figure 3 and Figure 4).  Asheville’s rate was also among the lowest of the state metros (Figure 4).  The third quarter unemployment rate translated into roughly 8,400 people who were unemployed.

 

Figure 3
Unemployment Rate (%)

Figure 3 Unemployment Rate % Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 Q3 JPS CPA

Source: NC Department of Commerce
 
Figure 4
Unemployment Rate (%)
2021 3Q Average

Figure 4 Unemployment Rate %  2021 3Q Average  Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 3Q

Source: NC Department of Commerce


In the third quarter of 2021, ten of eleven major industries increased employment compared to one year earlier. Leisure and Hospitality’s net increase of 3,933 jobs led overall employment gains and made up over half of total nonfarm employment growth (Figure 5).  Health Services experienced a decline of 667 jobs compared to the third quarter of 2020.  

 

Figure 5
Asheville Metro – 2021 3Q
Major Industry Employment
One-Year Change

Figure 5 Asheville Metro - 2021 3Q Major Industry Employment One-Year Change  2021 3Q Asheville Metro Economic Report  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 $26.79 in the third quarter 2021, a 9.9 percent increase from a year earlier (Figure 6).  This marked the ninth consecutive quarter with positive year-over-year gains.

Asheville’s third quarter average hourly wages placed the metro sixth highest among the fifteen metros in the state, though lower compared to the statewide average of $28.30 and the national average of $30.64 (Figure 7).

 

Figure 6
Asheville Metro
Average Hourly Wages
Private Industry

Figure 6 Asheville Metro Average Hourly Wages Private Industry _ 2021 3Q _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 3Q _ JPS CPA

Source: NC Department of Commerce

 

Figure 7
North Carolina Metros – 2021 3Q
Average Hourly Wages
Private Industry

Figure 7 NC Metros 2021 3Q Average Hourly Wages Private Industry  Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 3Q  JPS CPA

Source: NC Department of Commerce

 

Leisure & Hospitality

Buncombe County Lodging Sales totaled $172,361,417 in the third quarter for an increase of 67.5 percent compared to a year earlier when sales were at $102,918,776 (Figure 8 and Figure 9). Third 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 3Q  JPS CPA

Source: Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority
 
Figure 9
Buncombe County
Lodging Sales
Quarterly Year-Year Change (%)

Figure 9 Buncombe County Lodging Sales   Quarterly Year-Year Change %  Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 3Q   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 3Q  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 3Q  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 3Q  JPS CPA

Source: Asheville Regional Airport

 

Housing

In the second quarter of 2021 there were 2,959 new listings and 2,447 closed sales in the Asheville metro (Figure 13). Compared to the third quarter a year prior, the number of new listings was 4.6 percent higher. The number of closed home sales was 4.7 percent lower than the number closed a year prior.

The third quarter average sales price was $456,957 while the median sales price was $376,333. The average sales price increased 16.8 percent and the median sales price increased by 16.4 percent year-over-year (Figure 14).  

Figure 13
Asheville Metro
Home Sales

Figure 13 Asheville Metro Home Sales  Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 3Q   JPS CPA

Source: Canopy MLS
 
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 3Q   JPS CPA

Source: Canopy MLS

 

At 18.1 percent, Asheville’s Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate surpassed the national rate of 16.4 percent but was below the statewide rate of 18.2 percent in the third quarter of 2021 (Figure 15).  This ranked Asheville seventh among the state metros and marked the highest appreciation rate dating back at least five years.

 

Figure 15
North Carolina Metros
Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate (%)
2021 3Q

Figure 15 NC Metro Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate % 2021 3Q  Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 3Q  JPS CPA

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

 

Estimated permit activity for new residential building totaled 899 units in the third quarter 2021 for single family and multi-family units combined (Figure 16). The total value of permits reached $212 million, down slightly from the first and second quarters of 2021. In the third quarter, the total number of units permitted was up 22.1 percent and the total value was up 15.6 percent from one-year earlier. Permitted multi-family units totaled 343, accounting for 38 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 3Q   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 $2,601,378,346 ($2.6 billion) in the third quarter of 2021 and marked the highest quarterly retail sales dating back at least five years. This represented a 21.9 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  2021 3Q Asheville Metro Economic Report 2021 3Q  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 3Q _ 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, December 2021, and may be subject to periodic adjustment.