The Tri-City area remains one of the state’s most vibrant regions, as agriculture, food manufacturing, transportation, warehousing, health care, hospitality and education have pushed economic growth well ahead of most of the state. Economic activity continued to outpace the other areas, with employment rising 5.2 percent in December 2015, on a year-to-year basis, compared with 2.2 percent statewide. While the area is expected to continue its economic growth in 2016, there is lingering caution of a slow-growing resident labor force, with minimal growth of 0.2 percent in December 2015, when compared with the last year’s levels.
Tri-City area economic vitality is generated from a diverse spectrum of industries, with exports and commodity-driven sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing (food manufacturing, in particular), leading most of the growth in the area. Manufacturing has increased by 7 percent over the year, which primarily has been driven by growth in food manufacturing, outpacing growth in any other area in the state.
The median age is 33 for the total population in the two-county area, compared with 37.4 years statewide
Home and commercial construction for the Tri-City area did quite well in 2015, and is expected to weather the shift to modestly higher interest rates. The home-buying rush of the third quarter in 2015 should start slowing down early this year and reach a balance. In addition to the low interest rates, growing population and the strong local economy have fueled demand for homes and apartments. Home prices are continuing to increase between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent a year, with the median price increasing on average 2.6 percent a year for the past 10 years. The median home sold price in December 2015 was $217,300.
As of 2014, the average annual wage was at $45,830 for total of 112,000 jobs in the area. Wage growth has been slow in the past three years, as the higher paying industry positions were slow to grow post 2011 Hanford layoffs, during which the area has lost a large number of higher-paying positions at around 3.4 percent of total payroll.
Job growth has been concentrated in industries at the middle and lower end of the salary scale. In the middle, hiring has been paced by expansions in health care, education, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing. On the low end, hiring was concentrated in consumer services, which include retail trade, accommodation and food services, and agriculture, all of which employ a large number of part-time and seasonal work force.
Public sector employment at the local, county and state levels for education, health care and other government services has been growing, as the revenues continue to grow along with an expanding economy. Public sector services are growing at a similar pace with population growth, which has increasing demand for public services.
The Census Bureau estimates that around 30.9 percent of people living in the two-county area are Hispanic or Latino
Population in Benton and Franklin counties is 274,300 as of 2014, the Census Bureau estimates. Average annual growth rate for the past four years has been 2.6 percent in Franklin County and 1.4 percent in Benton County. Since 2012, population growth in the area has slowed down to half of its growth seen before 2012.
The median age is 33 for the total population in the two-county area, compared with 37.4 years statewide. The area’s 65-plus population was at 10.9 percent share in 2014, compared with the state’s 13.2 percent share. That means that the area’s population under 24 years of age is larger, at 38.4 percent total share, compared with the state share at 32.6 percent.
The Census Bureau estimates that around 30.9 percent of people living in the two-county area are Hispanic or Latino. Population educational attainment rates are expected to improve as the public and private higher education sectors have increased four-year degree offerings. Overall population demographics help shape local communities as well as industry make up.
Along with improving state and national economies, local area population and businesses are interchangeably propelling the community forward with creation of jobs and supply of the work force. Many of the industries do have a huge spillover effect on other industries in the local economy and because of workers’ ability to earn wages that can be spent on goods and services.
Much of the growth in 2016 is expected to be in both goods-producing industries like manufacturing and construction, and service-providing industries for population and businesses like health care, education, transportation and warehousing, leisure and hospitality, retail and food services.