Happy days were here again for Trumbull County retailers in December, and local real estate agents had reason for optimism after an improved sales month in February.
A Christmas shopping spree produced a record month for county sales tax receipts at $2.37 million, according to the latest Ohio Department of Taxation report.
The total, which comes from the county's 1 percent permissive sales tax, surpassed the previous high of $2.34 million in December 2006, a year before the Great Recession began. The worst December during that period produced $2.10 million in 2009.
Tribune Chronicle file photo
Randy Slusher of Windham, left, sits on the end of a bench inside the Eastwood Mall and waits for his wife as Kelli Penn of Cortland, second from left, and her sister, Heather Koscelnik of Chandler, Ariz., formerly of Cortland, and friend Jennifer Mullen, right, of Champion, relax after a day of shopping last year on Black Friday. A Christmas shopping spree produced a record month for Trumbull County sales tax receipts.
The strong finish pushed Trumbull County's year-to-date tax take to $23.59 million, blowing past the previous high of $21.44 million in 2007. The county's receipts bottomed at $19.31 million in 2009.
Sales tax revenue, based on the month when the county gets the money, is expected to cover half of the county's $42 million budget this year.
Analysts credit the resurgence of the 4,500-worker General Motors Co. Lordstown Complex, the 1,100-worker RG Steel, and more recently 1,000-plus new jobs from growth of the shale gas industry for restoring consumer confidence.
Mahoning County also fared well, with a single-month record $3.16 million sales tax revenue in December. The finish pushed the county to $30.82 million for the year, taking out the previous best of $28.33 million in 2007.
The number reflects the month when the sales occurred, in order to better track consumer spending habits.
The state reports its number in January when it collects the tax dollars. The counties got the money near the end of March.
Trumbull County home sales achieved a rare feat by outselling Mahoning County, 112 units to 105, and by surpassing its larger neighbor in median selling price, $61,500 to $57,000.
The last time Trumbull had more unit sales than Mahoning was March 2011 at 145 to 136.
February's performance beat the year-ago February's 97 unit sales, although it fell short of the $62,500 median price.
Mahoning County's performance fell short of the 111 units sold in the 2011 month but improved on the median price of $51,000.
The driver of better economic times - jobs - continued to improve in February. Warren's jobless rate declined to 9.3 percent from 11.1 percent in February 2011.
Trumbull County's rate improved to 8.9 percent from11 percent in the same period.
New-vehicle sales were the one category that weakened in February, although that was due more to an unusually strong February 2011 for General Motors Co., the area's favorite brand, than the economy.
The owner of the Lordstown Complex returned to leasing a year ago, driving the company's new-vehicle sales to 797 from 312 in February 2010. Sales dropped to 415 in the latest February as people who wanted a new vehicle already had bought.
Used car and truck sales picked up some of the slack by surging to 4,127, an 11.6 percent gain over February 2011.