September 11, 2018, by Erik Larson

How Are We Moving the Needle?

Top 5 Economic Indicators to Communicate Progress

Whether analyzing a district, neighborhood, or the city overall, understanding how our economic development efforts are paying off requires a certain amount of data.

Data seems to be all around us these days, with ever-increasing access. Much of it free to use. Yet with all this great information available to us it can be easy to get lost, overwhelmed or spiral into a research project too large for a limited staff.

Because we live and breathe data everyday here at eImpact, and do so across a wide range of geographies and organizations, we thought a quick Top 5 list might be useful for folks out there contemplating their data strategy.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach (that we know of), but with a few tweaks to optimize for local variations and the right narrative to go with it, this is a pretty good starting point. As always, we'd love your thoughts on the matter!

The Top 5

1. Firms: how many businesses are there and where is this trending?

No surprise here – we've got to grow our employer base in order to grow jobs. It is surprising, given the simplicity of this indicator, how many organizations struggle to obtain numbers on firms that they feel confidence in. This is due to a number of underlying issues, from how businesses register themselves (e.g., using a home address, etc) to timeliness of information sources (things can change quickly). At eImpact we solve these issues using a variety of different data sources, along with powerful analytics we've developed.

2. Jobs by Industry: what is the mix of employment in key industries?

You don't just want jobs, you want good jobs that allow people to thrive. As such, a total jobs figure is of marginal value (other than top-line news headlines). With jobs data parsed by industry, coupled with wage information, we can start to understand where to focus our resources on workforce development and more.

3. Population Trend: what is the story of the past 20 years?

Many smaller communities are contracting while cities and exurbs continue to swell. This is the macro-trend globally, but its effects locally are unique to a place. Five and ten year trends offer some perspective, but population trends are a longer term consideration. At eImpact we recommend using 20-year population trend data to couple with other indicators, and tell the local story.

4. Education: how does educational attainment and skillsets align to industry?

We recently published a blog post on the 3 questions site selectors ask when evaluating a community. All of them relate to workforce. Aside from the perspective of businesses, tracking this data is essential for engaging with your educational partners on developing effective programs to expand the talent pipeline.

5. Housing vs. Wages: can people earning here afford to live here?

Saved the best one for last. :) We see this issue in communities both small and on the larger end of the spectrum. People are being priced out, affordable housing stock is often not meeting the demand, and many local employers don't have job opportunities that pay enough. Before this unbalance can be righted through policy and hard work, you need a clear picture of the situation as told through the numbers.

Check out a live example of an economic dashboard by eImpact:

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