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Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect
Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect
Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for ConstructConnect. He is a frequent contributor to the Daily Commercial News and the Journal of Commerce. He has delivered presentations throughout North America on the Canadian, United States and world construction outlooks. A trusted and often-quoted source for … More »

Washington Sets the Pace in Northern Atlantic Region

July 21st, 2016 by Alex Carrick, Chief Economist at ConstructConnect

Article source: ConstructConnect

The accompanying tables rank seven major cities along America’s northern Atlantic coastline according to eight demographic and economic criteria. In the ‘overall’ listing that appears at the end of this article, Washington comes out best and Philadelphia worst. To reach those conclusions, however, it has been necessary to journey through the following data sets.

Population size: It’s no surprise that New York (20.2 million) is number one in terms of population size. Washington and Philadelphia (both with 6.1 million) are virtually tied for second. Across the U.S. as a whole, the population of Los Angeles (13.3 million) is not as big a step back from ‘The Big Apple’ as one might suppose.

Population change: With respect to population change, measured as the average annual growth rate over the latest two years for which statistics are available, Washington (+1.12%) is on top, followed by Richmond (+1.00%). New York (+0.47%) is in the middle and Philadelphia (+0.28%) and Providence (+0.25%) are barely making any headway at all.

Housing Starts: Residential building permits, as compiled by the Census Bureau and readily made available at the website of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), serve as the equivalent of new home starts for cities in the U.S. Through May of this year, New York (14,582 units) has been the leader in the number of residential building permits issued. Washington (10,937) has placed second. Providence hasn’t even exceeded 1,000-units.

Change in homebuilding activity: New York may be the frontrunner in number of residential building permits issued so far in 2016, but its year-over-year performance has been abysmal, -60.0%. Boston has also had a tough opening five months, -25%. The leader in percentage change has been Providence, but that’s mainly because its base value (i.e., the denominator) is so low. Rather, the city that truly stands out in this category is Washington with a gain of +23.0%.

Resale Housing Prices: As for resale single-family home prices, there isn’t much separation at the top of the ranking between New York ($381,000), Boston ($378,500) and Washington ($370,400), according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Those three urban centers are pricier than anywhere else in the U.S. except Denver, which is on a par with them, and cities along the West Coast, a number of which are far more expensive. Along the northern Atlantic Coast, Philadelphia ($203,900) is cheapest.

Change in Home Prices: Providence (+5.4%) is the only city with a significant year-over-year change in residential real estate prices. Four of the others have seen minimal rises, while Philadelphia (-0.5%) and New York (-1.0%) have been recording minor declines.

Employment Growth: Richmond (+3.7%) has provided the greatest year-over-year improvement in employment among the seven centers. Baltimore (+2.1%) and Philadelphia (also +2.1%) have beaten the national average (+1.7%). Boston’s jobs growth (+1.2%) has been lethargic, while Providence’s has been anemic (+0.3%).

Jobless Rate: Boston, however, does lay claim to the lowest unemployment rate (3.5%) among its geographically nearby compatriots. Washington (3.6%) is a close second, with Richmond (3.7%) not far behind either. The highest jobless rates in the north Atlantic region are to be found in Providence (5.0%) and Philadelphia (5.1%).

Overall Rating: To pick out the star among northern Atlantic cities, I’ve taken seven of their eight rankings and calculated an average. In turn, that average has been used to compile an extra ‘overall’ ranking. Population size has been ignored because it is based on a long-term historical build-up. Population change, though, is important because it’s likely to reflect the in- or out-migration of workers depending on how they see their prospects in the local jobs market.

The composite ranking from best to worst in the U.S. northern Atlanta region is: (1) Washington; (2) Richmond; (3) Boston; (4) Baltimore; (5) New York; (6) Providence; and (7) Philadelphia.

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