WRITTEN BY TODD SHIMKUS, PRESIDENT OF THE SARATOGA COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
As 2021 recently came to a close, Saratoga County saw tremendous growth and bounce back from the impact COVID-19 had on the economy just last year. County sales tax collections saw double-digit percentage growth in 2021 compared to both 2020 and 2019. Unemployment rates hit a historic low due to a reduction in the labor force. Demand for hotel rooms grew in 2021 compared to 2020, indicating tourists are beginning to return to the county.
Saratoga County sales tax collections totaled $152.9 million in 2021. As shown in the chart, this was more than 19% higher than 2020 and nearly 18% higher than 2019. Local government sales tax collections in all of New York were up 19% for 2021.
“While local sales tax collections were robust as the economy rebounded from the pandemic, some of that growth is attributed to inflation, which was the highest it has been in over thirty years,” said NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The City of Saratoga Springs collected $14.7 million in sales taxes in 2021, up 32.5% from 2020. These collections cover a range of items from retail purchases to gasoline, lodging, construction materials, cars, boats, etc.
According to the New York State Department of Labor, the four largest counties in the region -- Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady -- saw unemployment rates drop to historic lows.
But this is not just a result of employment growth. Instead, the region’s labor force declined by 2.9% in one year as there are now 13,000 fewer people working or looking for work.
“The Labor Department’s data goes back to 1990 and 2.2% unemployment is the lowest for Saratoga County ever,” said Todd Shimkus, president, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “I wish this was because people were finding new jobs. But the reality is that our labor force is shrinking as the baby boom generation retires and more people choose to stay at home to care for their families. The shortage of labor is hurting every sector of our economy locally.”
Demand for hotel rooms in Saratoga Springs increased in 2021 versus 2020 by 44 percent. This was driven by the fact that the City’s major attractions, SPAC, Live Nation, the Saratoga Casino and the Saratoga Race Course were allowed to open this past summer.
The average daily rate for a room in 2021 was $173.44. This was higher than 2020 and 2019.
“Rate was the good news,” said Darryl Leggieri, president, Discover Saratoga. “The average daily rate helped us salvage a respectable year. 2021 was a nice rebound year after a terrible one in 2020.”
According to information released by the Greater Capital Association of REALTORS, 2021 was a very good year for the area’s residential real estate sales market. Of the area’s four largest counties, Saratoga County led the way with 3,466 closed sales, up 8.4% versus 2020. The median sales price for a new home in Saratoga County was $348,000 in 2021, up 11.5% from 2020.
By comparison, Albany County had 3,244 closed sales, up 6.4%; Rensselaer County had 1,698 closed sales, up 4.8%; and Schenectady County had 2,317 closed sales in 2021, up 19.2% from 2020. The median sales price in Albany was $265,000 compared to $237,850 in Rensselaer County and $$212,000 in Schenectady County for 2021. The median sales prices in all four counties increased by double digits, from a low of 10.4% to a high of 11.8%.
A deeper dive into Saratoga County’s local market shows the median sales price of homes sold in 2021 increased versus 2020 not just county wide, but in Clifton Park, Halfmoon, Malta, Saratoga Springs, and Wilton/Gansevoort. The Town of Clifton Park, Halfmoon, and Malta saw median prices right around $350,000 in 2021. Meanwhile the median sales price of a home in Wilton and Gansevoort was $365,000 in 2021 and $480,000 in the City of Saratoga Springs. The largest increase in median sales price was in Halfmoon where prices rose 18.3%.
The increase in closed sales and median sales prices demonstrates this is a seller’s market. This is especially true as the number of new listings declined in 2021 versus 2020 by 13 percent across Saratoga County. Likewise, the number of days on the market decreased by 35% and the percent of the original list price received topped 100%.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Inflation is on the rise while employers struggle with an unprecedented labor shortage, not just locally but across the US and many parts of the world. Through the monthly compilation of this Insider’s Report, the Saratoga County Chamber will monitor and share local sales tax and labor force data that might help readers to see how these two trends are impacting our local economy.
For the optimists among us, Saratoga County remains a popular place to live, work, play and visit. Locally, all of us at the Chamber - - and many of the small locally owned businesses we promote - - have been incredibly thankful for the tremendous effort by so many of our neighbors to shop and buy local throughout the pandemic. We hope these purchasing trends will continue because saving our local businesses is one of the best ways, we can all sustain the incredible quality of life we have here.
Local hotels report strong advanced bookings for vacations in 2022, and the Saratoga Springs City Center is expecting the return of even more conventions, meetings, and events. NYRA is planning for a full 40-day race meeting; SPAC for a full return of its Jazz Festival, the New York City Ballet, and the Philadelphia Orchestra; and Live Nation appears poised to have one of its largest concert schedules in years.