Thursday, June 19, 2014

Long Island Economy in an Election Year

Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties are comparable
economies, with 544,000 (Queens) to 640,500 (Suffolk) jobs.
With all of its U.S. reps in DC up for re-election in 2014, the latest quarter of data on jobs and wages is worth looking at with an eye to what it means for the political environment.

For example, in  New York's First Congressional District, which accounts for most of Suffolk County, both of the main candidates for the Republican nomination on June 24 (Lee Zeldin and George Demos) have announced that they plan to make their main issue the economy.

They plan to paint the incumbent, Rep. Tim Bishop, as a pro-regulation, pro-spending Democrat who has contributed to higher taxes in Suffolk County.

So it will pay to stay a step ahead of the electoral clamor and look at three counties that may help establish the context of the debate - Queens, Nassau and Suffolk. Their fourth-quarter 2013 jobs and wages data were just published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning.
  • The three counties are remarkably similar in economic size, with between 49,000 (Queens) and 53,300 (Nassau) establishments.
  • Of the three, Suffolk County has the most jobs, 640,500. Nassau is in second place with 616,700 jobs and Queens with 544,500.
  • It is true that the growth in jobs in Suffolk County compared with the fourth quarter of 2012 is the slowest of the three counties, 1.2 percent, behind Queens with 1.5 percent and Nassau with 2.3 percent. But Suffolk's growth is near the U.S. median for the 335 largest counties - it's not terrible.
  • Meanwhile, on the wage front, Suffolk has done very well. The average wage per week in the fourth quarter was $1,079, an increase of 1.9 percent over a year earlier. This is in the top one-sixth of all large counties in the nation. Suffolk's weekly wage is nearly as high as that of Nassau, at $1,120.
  • However, during the same year that Suffolk's wages were rising, Nassau's were falling by 1.5 percent. Both Nassau and Suffolk wages are higher than in Queens, which has a weekly wage of $955, a 2.1 percent increase over 2012.
The job and salary data do not provide a prima facie case that either Suffolk or Nassau County suffers from over-regulation or over-taxation, at least compared with the rest of the United States.

If prior elections are a guide, however, don't under-estimate the ability of campaigners to find data to support the economic case they want to make against an incumbent.

If you torture data enough, they will confess.