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GDP growth a mixed bag in Central Pa.

Lancaster County tops region for 2015, while York-Hanover, Lebanon County post declines

The U.S. economy may be expanding, but last year was a mixed bag for Central Pennsylvania, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Lancaster County was the shining star as the county came in ahead of the national average for real growth in gross domestic product among metropolitan areas. It enjoyed 2.8 percent growth in 2015.

Lancaster County grew by the same margin in 2014, according to the BEA. Real GDP across all U.S. metros was up 2.5 percent last year, up from an increase of 2.3 percent in 2014.

The national growth is in line with expectations, according to Mekael Teshome, an economist with PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh.

“We’re expecting persistent and moderate growth. That’s the story for the U.S. and also the region,” Teshome said, defining moderate growth as falling between 2 percent and 2.5 percent.

Growth is slower in some portions of the midstate, however. Harrisburg-Carlisle posted growth of 1.4 percent, while York-Hanover and Lebanon County contracted slightly from 2014.

GDP represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a time period. Real GDP is adjusted for inflation.

The slight declines shouldn’t be a major concern, Teshome said, because there are other economic indicators, including employment data. Central Pennsylvania has posted steady progress in terms of job growth.

Contributing most to Lancaster County’s growth last year was the finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing sector, followed by wholesale and retail trade. 

Trade was the second-largest growth area nationally for metro areas, contributing to growth in 335 of 382 metro areas, according to the BEA.

“Consumer spending is really the prime mover of U.S. economic growth at this point,” Teshome said. “Expect consumer spending to continue to be a big driver of economic growth at the national level. At the regional level, we see that reflected in more service-oriented areas (such as retail).”

Manufacturing also will continue to be a steady driver in Central Pennsylvania, he said. But don’t anticipate any big run-up in employment or production.

In Harrisburg-Carlisle, the leading sectors were trade and transportation and utilities. Nationally, the transportation and utilities sector was down in 2015, declining in 311 metro areas, according to the BEA.

The educational services, health care and social assistance sector was a bright spot in York-Hanover, where real GDP shrank 0.4 percent. Meanwhile, the top sector in Lebanon County, down 0.2 percent, was natural resources and mining.

Overall, 293, or about 77 percent, of the nation’s metro areas posted growth in real GDP last year, according to the BEA.

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