Economy And Workforce

Essex County’s economy has rebounded to a degree from the depths of the national recession of 2008-09 and several key sectors are gaining jobs, but salaries have only kept pace with inflation.

Total jobs increased 18% from 2001 to 2017 to 464,500. That rate of growth is similar to the nation, a bit higher than the state and above Essex County’s comparable counties.

Growing sectors in Essex County include Financial Activities, which increased 64% in total jobs from 2001 to 2017, Healthcare and Social Assistance (54%) and Leisure and Hospitality (32%) sectors. The biggest decline among major sectors was in Manufacturing, where jobs fell 31%. Trends in Essex County were very similar to statewide and national trends, as well as to comparable counties.

The largest sectors in Essex County were very similar to the state and nation: 16% of total jobs were in Health Care and Social Assistance and Trade, Transportation and Utilities, 14% in Professional and Business Services, 10% in Leisure and Hospitality and 9% in each of the following: Financial Activities, Government, and Manufacturing. 

The highest paid sector in Essex County was Manufacturing, with an average annual salary of $92,700 in 2017. This was followed by Financial Activities ($86,300) and Professional and Business Services ($83,200). The lowest paid sector was Leisure and Hospitality ($22,800). This was a bit different from the state and nation, where the Financial Activities ($135,900 and $92,700, respectively) and Information sectors ($109,500 and $101,800, respectively) that were the two highest earning sectors.

Overall, yearly salaries in Essex County averaged $58,200 in 2017 and increased 4% from 2000 after adjusting for inflation. This is in contrast to the state, where the average salary has increased by 11% and the nation, with a 10% increase over the same time period. (All financial data is presented in real terms.)

From 2000 to 2017, salaries grew fastest in Essex County in the Financial Activities (+39%), Government (+22%) and Manufacturing (+21%) sectors, while the Information sector had the largest decrease (-18%). Although Essex County, the state and nation had similar changes in many sectors, the state and nation both had increases in average salaries in Information of 14% and 25% respectively.

In Essex County, as in the state and nation, women’s earnings tended to lag men’s earnings in the same occupations. For all occupations, Essex County women earned 80% of men’s earnings.

Like the state and nation, Essex County’s economy is dominated by small employers. In 2016, over half (54%) of businesses in Essex County employed 1-4 people, 19% employed 5-9 people, 12% employed 10-19 people and the remaining 14% employed 20 people or more. Only 2% of employers, less than 500 businesses, had 100 or more employees. This has not changed substantially since 2000.

Self-employment in Essex County brings in more revenue per resident than for the nation as a whole. Essex County had just over $6,500 in self-employment revenue per resident in 2016, on par with the state and $800 higher per resident that the nation. However, Essex County’s level was down 3% since 2000.

Unemployment in the county fell to 3.8% in 2017, a continuation of the steady decline in unemployment rates since the peak of 8.7% in 2009 and similar with the state, and below the nation and comparable counties except Middlesex which was 3%. However, Essex County’s unemployment is still nearly twice the low of  2.7% in 2000.

In 2013-17, unemployment was higher among Hispanic and African American residents at about 9% than among Asian and white residents, similar to the disparities seen at the state and national levels.

In 2015, around 128,000 workers (43%) entered Essex County for work each year, and 120,000 residents (43%) left for work each year.