It's almost time to close the books on 2013. The bottom-line numbers aren't final yet, but our back-of-the-envelope calculation says the midstate is finishing the year on an upswing. Take a look.
While Central Pennsylvania didn't take it on the chin the way other parts of the country did when the recession hit, our jobless numbers still needed to improve. And they have. Still running behind the national average, now at 7 percent, the latest figures from the state in October showed jobs gains in every midstate county. Two counties — Lebanon and Lancaster — fell to 5.5 percent; the highest, Dauphin at 6.6 percent, also recorded the biggest decline (-1.1 percent).
This isn't just a case of job seekers giving up and dropping out. The pace of area companies announcing expansions, relocations and even reshoring of jobs has been steady, especially in the second half of the year.
When it comes to real estate, foreclosures are down and construction is up. In fact, speculative commercial building is showing signs of life again, while residential development is picking up steam. Construction companies made a strong showing this year on the Business Journal's 50 Fastest Growing Companies.
Also significant, we think, is that major-market real estate investors are finding opportunities here.
Local business also is stronger. Our Top 100 list of private companies this year reflected more of the kinds of year-over-year gains we were used to seeing before the recession. And the publicly traded companies based here have steadily rebounded along with the markets in general. Consistent global performers such as Hershey continued to grow, while the struggling Rite Aid has become a success story few would have predicted several years ago.
Banks also are in recovery mode, though more cautious in their outlooks as they adapt to the impact of post-recession federal regulation and keep a wary eye on the Federal Reserve's tapering intentions.
We would be remiss if we didn't say a word about the City of Harrisburg. As cities such as Lancaster and York forge ahead with energetic development and renewal plans, it's encouraging to know the commonwealth's capital city may be ready to start down that path.
The midstate's blend of conservatism, economic diversity and innovation has served it well historically. Individual businesses will always face unique challenges within their enterprises. But the midstate remains a good place to meet those challenges. Here's looking forward to continued positive news in 2014.