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Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 Fourth Quarter

Highlights:

The four-county Asheville metro (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison counties) continued recovery in the fourth quarter of 2020, adding employment each month and experiencing progress in the majority of economic indicators. Overall, employment dropped by an average of 7.2 percent, while the metro’s unemployment rate averaged 5.8 percent.

  • In the fourth quarter of 2020, employment in the Asheville metro dropped by an average of 7.2 percent, remaining the highest among metros in the state. The decline represents an average loss of 14,400 jobs from a year earlier. This was a clear improvement compared to the third quarter.

  • Averaging 5.8 percent over the fourth quarter of 2020, Asheville’s overall unemployment rate declined each month in the quarter.

  • Asheville’s average unemployment rate for the quarter was among the lowest of the state’s fifteen metros.

  • Nine of eleven major industry sectors lost employment in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to one-year earlier. Leisure and Hospitality’s loss was greatest among the sectors but also marked improvement compared to the third quarter.

  • Buncombe County Lodging Sales totaled $123 million in the fourth quarter; $8.6 million or 6.5 percent below the fourth quarter of 2019.

  • Total Passenger Traffic at the Asheville Regional Airport grew to 206,417 in the fourth quarter of 2020; a 53.7 percent decline from a year earlier.

  • Average sale price of homes sold was $406,224 in the fourth quarter, an increase of 16.2 percent compared year-over-year.

  • Taxable retail sales in the Asheville metro totaled $2.3 billion in the fourth quarter; 5.7 percent greater than one-year earlier.

Detailed Analysis:

Employment

In the fourth quarter of 2020, employment in the Asheville metro dropped by an overall average of 7.2 percent (Figure 1 and Figure 2). The decline represents an average loss of 14,400 jobs from a year earlier. Asheville’s fourth quarter decline is greater than the national average rate of -5.9 percent and the statewide rate of -4.0 percent, although all three regions experienced improvement compared to the third quarter.

Figure 1
Total Employment
Monthly Year-to-Year
Percent Change
Figure 1 Total Employment Monthly Year-Year Percent Change  Asheville Metro 2020 Q4 JPS CPA
Source: NC Division of Employment Security

Decline in Asheville Metro’s percentage rate of employment over the fourth quarter was the highest among the state’s fifteen metros (Figure 2). Each metro lost employment year-over-year, as did the state and the nation. Asheville’s rate of employment decline exceeded both the national and statewide rates of decline.

Figure 2
2020 4Q Average
North Carolina Metros
Employment One-Year Percent Change
Figure 2 2020 4Q Average NC Metros Employment One-Year Percent Change _ 2020 4Q Asheville Metro Econ Report _ JPS CPA
Source: NC Division of Employment Security

Averaging 5.8 percent over the fourth quarter of 2020, Asheville’s unemployment rate continued to drop throughout the year after the May peak of 17.1 percent (Figure 3). However, fluctuation in the labor force is a consideration and the unemployment rate translates into roughly 13,500 Asheville metro residents available for work but unemployed.  

Asheville’s average unemployment rate for the fourth quarter was below the statewide average of 6.3 percent and the national average of 6.5 percent and was among the lowest of the fifteen state metros (Figure 4).

Figure 3
Unemployment Rates (%)

Figure 3 Unemployment Rates % _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q _ JPS CPA

Source: NC Division of Employment Security




Figure 4

Unemployment Rate (%)
2020 4Q Average

Figure 4 Unemployment Rate % _ 2020 4Q Average _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q

Source: NC Division of Employment Security


Nine of eleven major industry sectors lost employment in the fourth quarter of 2020 when compared to one-year earlier. The Leisure and Hospitality sector’s net loss of 6,900 accounted for the greatest decline, more than four times that of Health Services’ drop of 1,600 jobs (Figure 5). Two sectors added employment: Transportation & Warehousing (+400) and Professional & Business Services (+200).

Figure 5
Asheville Metro – 2020 4Q
Major Industry Employment
One-Year Change

Figure 5 Asheville Metro 2020 4Q _ Major Industry Employment _ One-Year Change _ Asheville Metro Econ Report _ JPS CPA

Totals rounded to nearest 100
Excludes ‘Other Services’
Source: NC Division of Employment Security



Wages
 

Private industry average hourly wages in the Asheville metro rose to $25.19 in the fourth quarter, a 6.5 percent gain from a year earlier (Figure 6). Comparing each quarter year-over-year, this marks the sixth consecutive quarter with positive year-over-year gains, following the second quarter of 2019. Pandemic effects are a consideration.

Asheville’s fourth quarter hourly wages place it eighth among the fifteen metros in the state. The 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 _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q _ JPS CPA
Source: NC Division of Employment Security




Figure 7

North Carolina Metros – 2020 4Q
Average Hourly Wages
Private Industry
Figure 7 NC Metros 2020 4Q Average Hourly Wages Private Industry_ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q _ JPS CPA
Source: NC Division of Employment Security



Leisure & Hospitality

Buncombe County Lodging Sales totaled $122,860,484 in the fourth quarter, 6.5 percent less than the fourth quarter 2019 sales of $131,470,946 (Figure 8 and Figure 9). Sales rose compared to the third quarter 2020 and surpassed the comparable point in 2018.

Figure 8
Buncombe County
Lodging Sales
Figure 8 Buncombe County Lodging Sales _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q
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 2020 4Q _ JPS CPA
Source: Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority



Hotel Occupancy
in Buncombe County averaged 63.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020.  This was the lowest percentage of available rooms sold during any fourth quarter going back a decade, but an improvement compared to the prior three quarters in 2020 (Figure 10).  


Figure 10
Buncombe County
Hotel Occupancy
Figure 10 Buncombe County Hotel Occupancy _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q _ JPS CPA
Source: Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority



Passenger Traffic
at the Asheville Regional Airport totaled 206,417 in the fourth quarter of 2020, a 53.7 percent decline compared to the fourth quarter a year earlier.  However, this reflected steady improvement compared to the second and third quarters of 2020 (Figure 11 and Figure 12).  
 

 Figure 11
Asheville Regional Airport
Total Passengers

Figure 11 Asheville Regional Airport Total Passengers _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q _ 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 2020 4Q _ JPS CPA

Source: Asheville Regional Airport

 

Housing

In the fourth quarter there were 2,155 new listings and 2,557 closed sales in the Asheville metro (Figure 13). The average sales price was $406,224 and the median sales price was $335,000. The number of closed home sales is 31.8 percent higher than the number closed one-year earlier. The average sales price gained 16.2 percent and the median price increased by 16 percent (Figure 14). Compared to the fourth quarter a year earlier, there is an increase of just over 240 new listings, or 12.7 percent.



Figure 13
Asheville Metro
Home Sales
Figure 13 Asheville Metro Home Sales _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q _ JPS CPA
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 Change % _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q _ JPS CPA
Source: NCMMLS, provided by Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association

 

At 5.7 percent, Asheville’s Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate in the fourth quarter is below the national rate of 6 percent and the statewide rate of 6.6 percent (Figure 15). The fourth quarter ended the year with the metro’s highest year-over-year appreciation rate of the four quarters in 2020. 


Figure 15
North Carolina Metros
Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate (%)
2020 4Q
Figure 15 NC Metro Same-Home Annual Appreciation Rate % 2020 4Q _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q
Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

 

Estimated permit activity for new residential buildings totaled 758 units in the fourth quarter for single-family and multi-family units (Figure 16). The total value of $207 million established a new quarterly high mark going back at least a decade. In the fourth quarter, the total number of units permitted is up 40 percent and the total value is up 42 percent from one year earlier. Permitted multi-family units totaled 139, accounting for 18 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 2020 4Q _ 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: U.S. Census Bureau

 

Retail Sales

Taxable retail sales in the Asheville metro totaled $2,331,317,413 ($2.3 billion) in the fourth quarter. This reflects a new high point going back at least a decade and was 5.7 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 4Q
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 % _ Asheville Metro Economic Report 2020 4Q _ 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 point in time of March 19, 2021 and may be subject to periodic adjustment.