By Tom Ozimek
The government has for the first time released official gross domestic product (GDP) statistics for each and every one of the nation’s 3,113 counties.
The figures, released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), span 2001-2018.
A year ago today, the BEA teased the official release of the GDP data with a set of prototype statistics. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said at the time that “the prototype data addresses one of the last remaining gaps in economic knowledge, offering policymakers and businesses a new tool to inform their decision-making.”
The BEA’s new data provides a more detailed look at the geographic distribution of economic activity in the United States, helping analysts assess local performance and policymakers develop growth strategies.
Since the size of a county’s economy as measured by GDP varies significantly across the nation, the county-level statistics will help answer important questions about the size and condition of local area economies, such as industrial composition and comparative growth trends.
The data shows, for example, that in 2018, real GDP increased in 2,375 counties, decreased in 717, and was unchanged in 21.
The total 2018 GDP level ranged from $18.4 million in Issaquena County, Mississippi, to $710.9 billion in Los Angeles County, California.
The percentage change ranged from 86.5 percent in Jackson County, West Virginia, to -44.0 percent in Grant County, North Dakota.
Gross domestic product estimates the value of the goods and services produced in an area and can be used to compare the size and growth of county economies across the nation.
The newly published county-level GDP statistics include breakouts for private goods-producing industries, private services-producing industries, and the government and government enterprises industry group.
The new data can show such details as the relative contributions of private versus government industry to GDP. For example, in the New York metropolitan area—which in the BEA figures includes New York City, Newark, and Jersey City—the overall industrial contribution to GDP was $1.53 trillion in 2018. The private sector contributed the lion’s share of $1.39 trillion, while government and government enterprises accounted for $138 billion. This means 74 percent of GDP came from the private sector, compared to 26 percent from the government. By comparison, Kings County, New York, saw $77.7 billion from private industry versus $13.9 billion from the government sector, with private industry contributing 85 percent to GDP.
The figures can aid economic development strategies that target areas with the greatest need by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of local economies. County-level GDP statistics can also help understand the longer-term impacts of different development strategies.
The 2018 county-level figures show that 96 percent of large counties saw real GDP growth, compared to 93 percent of medium counties, and 72 percent of small counties.
In the nation’s 141 large counties, those with populations greater than 500,000, real GDP in 2018 increased in 136 and decreased in 5.
Santa Clara County, California, was the fastest-growing county at 10.2 percent. IT was the leading contributor to the county’s growth.
Kern County, California, had the largest percentage drop in GDP (-0.7 percent), with contraction in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry (primarily oil and gas extraction) being the leading contributors to its decrease.
GDP in large counties ranged from $11.2 billion in Pasco County, Florida, to $710.9 billion dollars in Los Angeles County, California.
In the country’s 464 medium-sized counties, those with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, real GDP in 2018 increased in 433, decreased in 30, and was unchanged in 1.
Canadian County Oklahoma was the fastest-growing county at 21 percent. The mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry (primarily oil and gas extraction and support activities) was the main factor contributing to the county’s growth.
San Juan County, New Mexico, saw the largest percentage drop in real GDP (-6.1 percent). The mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry (primarily non-oil and gas mineral extraction) was the leading contributor to the decrease.
In medium counties, GDP ranged from $2 billion in Saline County, Arkansas, to $52.6 billion in Morris County, New Jersey.
In the nation’s 2,508 small counties, those with populations less than 100,000, real GDP in 2018 increased in 1,806, decreased in 682, and remained unchanged in 20.
In this category, Jackson County, West Virginia, was the fastest-growing county at 86.5 percent. The main contributor to this county’s growth was the construction industry.
Grant County, North Dakota, saw the largest percentage drop in GDP (-44.0 percent) in 2018. The agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry was the main reason for the drop.
GDP ranged from $18.4 million in Issaquena County, Massachusetts, to $13.3 billion dollars in Karnes County, Texas.
The BEA said its county-level figures can inform research and policy initiatives by providing insight into such questions as which industries are driving growth in a given county and what the growth trend has been over time.
The BEA’s GDP statistics are calculated on the basis of the place of production, like the county where an office or factory is located, regardless of where the workers live.
By contrast, BEA’s personal income statistics measure the incomes of all people who live in a given county, irrespective of the location of their workplace.
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