Business

EVC’s Economic Dashboard provides quick look at local economy

Here’s a screenshot of a portion of the EVC’s Economic Dashboard.
Here’s a screenshot of a portion of the EVC’s Economic Dashboard.

To help residents, business owners and government leaders better understand trends in the local economy, the Economic Vitality Corp. of San Luis Obispo County has launched an Economic Dashboard.

The informational graphic offers a glance at 24 key economic indicators, such as private sector jobs, taxable sales, average annual wages and building permits. It also provides wage and employment information on the six largest industry clusters in the county, which the Economic Vitality Corp. has identified in order to help such businesses grow and create more head-of-household jobs.

“Economics and statistics are (subjects) people get Ph.D.s in and study all their lives. The average person doesn’t have the ability to do that, but they can go to the web and see these metrics and see why they matter to them,” said Bruce Ray, chairman of the Economic Vitality Corp. Ray added that he views the Economic Dashboard as “an evolving opportunity — one where we continue making progress and adding to the dashboard, creating more valuable data that people can go to.”

Each economic indicator will change as the data becomes available — monthly, quarterly or annually. The Tribune will publish the Economic Dashboard quarterly.

» Economic Dashboard: Click here for a closer look at SLO County’s economy

How the economy is performing now

The current Economic Dashboard shows the local economy is continuing its upward trend that began in 2010, although it is now moving at a slower pace, said Jordan Levine, economist at the California Association of Realtors, who studied the regional economy for years as director of economic research at Beacon Economics in Los Angeles. He reviewed the dashboard at The Tribune’s request.

The county remains a popular tourist destination, something that Levine foresees continuing into the future. He said tourism in the economy is going very well, in addition to a budding professional sector that includes technology — creating a much more diverse economy.

Levine said he hopes to see more residential construction. He noted that there’s lots of within-county migration to the North County that’s affordability- driven, however enough new housing hasn’t been built to accommodate that population shift. As a result, there isn’t enough affordable housing in the county overall and that hampers the region’s ability to attract people, Levine said.

Kirk Clark, vice president of the California Business Roundtable, a nonpartisan organization made up of major employers throughout the state, cited positive job growth and good taxable quarterly sales as strengths in the local economy. He added that the county’s unemployment rate of 4.3 percent in March far exceeds the California average of 5.6 percent during the same period.

He noted that challenges for the county are similar to statewide problems, related to increasing energy costs and high housing costs.

How the data will be used

Michael Specchierla, director of San Luis Obispo Partners in Education, a major sponsor of the Economic Dashboard, said the data will be especially useful to educators who are trying to prepare local students for local jobs.

“Having this labor area data is really important because it’s not an easy thing for a classroom teacher to get,” he said. “You could be building programs in a school that are well-intentioned but don’t actually fit with where the labor market needs are.”

San Luis Obispo Partners in Education plans to use the Economic Dashboard by bringing together educators and business leaders to create career pathways from high schools into the workforce where promising career opportunities exist.

The program plans to incorporate the economic information into its advisory board meetings, education, career and college counseling and planning, curriculum development and work-based learning opportunities (such as classroom speakers, business mentors, work-site tours and job shadowing), Specchierla said.

“We’re going to be using the data to stay informed … and make sure the students are aware of what the trends and needs are as they go into the labor market.”

The Economic Dashboard is the result of a partnership between the Economic Vitality Corp. and the California Business Roundtable. Major sponsors are San Luis Obispo Partners in Education, a program of the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, and Dignity Health of the Central Coast.

Data is drawn from sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California Employment Development Department and California Department of Finance.

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