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 4% from 2020 to 2021 representing rebound from a 5.7% job loss from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. That rate of growth was above the state, nation and above Essex County’s  comparable counties.

Growing sectors in Essex County include Financial Activities, which increased 82% in total jobs from 2001 to 2021, Healthcare and Social Assistance (46%) and Professional and Business Services (20%) sectors. 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: 15% of total jobs were in Health Care and Social Assistance and 18% in Trade, Transportation and Utilities, 14% in Professional and Business Services and 9% in each of the following: Financial Activities, Government, Leisure and Hospitality and Manufacturing. 

The highest paid sector in Essex County was Financial Activities, with an average annual salary of $111,300 in 2021. This was followed by Information ($110,200) and Manufacturing ($103,800). The lowest paid sector was Leisure and Hospitality ($29,200). This was similar to the state and nation, where the Financial Activities ($165,300 and $114,900, respectively) and Information sectors ($150,700 and $147,700, respectively) were the two highest earning sectors.

Overall, yearly salaries in Essex County averaged $71,200 in 2021 and increased 15% from 2000 after adjusting for inflation. This is in contrast to the state, where the average salary has increased by 26% and the nation, with a 22% increase over the same time period. (All financial data is presented in real terms.)

From 2000 to 2021, salaries grew fastest in Essex County in the Financial Activities (62%), Professional and Business Services (31%) and Manufacturing (23%) sectors, while the Information sector had the largest decrease (-1%). 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 43% and 64% 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 78% of men’s earnings.

Like the state and nation, Essex County’s economy is dominated by small employers. In 2020, over half (55%) 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 3% 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 about $7,900 in self-employment revenue per resident in 2019, above the state and over $1,000 higher per resident than the nation. Essex County’s level was up 6% since 2000.

Unemployment in the county fell to 6.4% in 2021. This represents a decline from the previous year when the rate peaked at 10.4% due to COVID in 2020. The unemployment rate in Essex County was higher than the state, nation and comparable counties. 

In 2017-21, unemployment was higher among Hispanic and African American residents at about 9.4% and 4.1% than among Asian and white residents, similar to the disparities seen at the state and national levels.

In 2019, around 114,300 workers (44%) entered Essex County for work each year, and 174,100 residents (54%) left for work each year.