Report: Salisbury is doing well compared to the national cost of living average – Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — The city’s cost of living was 8% lower than the national average last year, but not all goods and services were cheaper in Salisbury than in other North Carolina urban areas.
Salisbury’s utilities and transport were more affordable than most places. Groceries were more expensive locally than in Charlotte, Raleigh, or Winston-Salem. Health care costs were comparable to cities across the country.
Catawba College students are compiling cost of living figures under the guidance of Ketner School of Business Dean Eric Hake. Students, and sometimes Hake or other faculty members at Catawba, collect data on a number of products and services in Salisbury – from the price of ground beef to the monthly cost of an apartment.
The figures are submitted to the Council for Community and Economic Research, which publishes quarterly reports on the costs of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services in hundreds of urban and metropolitan areas. In the council’s report, a score of 100 indicates that an area ranks within the national average. The cost of living index is not used to assess inflation.
With a composite index of 92, Salisbury is eight points below the average. Salisbury’s composite cost of living index was not only lower than the national average, but also lower than Charlotte (94.8), Raleigh (92.8), Winston-Salem (95.6) and Asheville (106.2).
Salisbury’s scores in 2021 are as follows:
• Groceries: 100.7
• Housing: 76.8
• Utilities: 97
• Transportation: 96.7
• Health care: 100
• Miscellaneous goods and services: 98.8
Each of the scores is weighted differently to obtain the overall composite index. For example. Housing represents 30.9% of the composite. Health care accounts for 4.42%.
The city’s lower-than-average cost of living is a selling point for people like Rod Crider, chairman of the Rowan Economic Development Council. With the potential for thousands of jobs coming to Rowan County through a number of economic projects, Crider and his team have stepped up their efforts to attract more workers to the area.
“There’s going to be pressure on our labor market like we’ve never seen before, so we’re going to have to be able to attract new workers here,” Crider said.
When Crider and EDC offer a business or worker a move to Rowan, the cost of living is usually brought up in the conversation. Crider specifically pointed to Salisbury’s Housing Cost Index of 76.8%, which was the lowest cost of living category in the city.
The average price for a 950-square-foot, two-bedroom unfurnished apartment in Salisbury was $954, which was lower than in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh and Asheville. Meanwhile, the average purchase price for a 2,400-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Rowan County was $289,330, which was higher than Charlotte’s average price of $281,522 and Winston-Salem priced at $228,299, but far below a home in Raleigh at $323,846 or Asheville at $472,724.
“It would be very appealing to young people who may be looking to start a career and move into an area of affordable housing,” Crider said.
Like the Rowan EDC, the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce promotes Rowan County’s relatively low cost of living in its talent attraction efforts.
“Our community having a lower cost of living certainly helps us attract and retain citizens,” said House Speaker Elaine Spalding.
The cost of living is one of the measures monitored by the Chamber’s Workforce Development Alliance. It’s also a statistic the Chamber includes in its newcomer packets, which are sent to people who have recently moved to the area.
Spalding said the number of newcomer packets has increased since the start of the pandemic, from 20 to 30 newcomer packets per month to about 70. Spalding attributes the number of newcomers at least in part to a pattern of cheaper life.
“People can live anywhere with remote work and they want to be in a small community with a low cost of living,” Spalding said.
The most expensive urban area on the list was Manhattan, New York, which had a composite index more than double the national average, followed by San Francisco, Honolulu, Brooklyn, New York and Washington, D.C. 25% below the national average was Kalamazoo, Michigan, followed by Harlingen, Texas, and McAllen, Texas. Muskogee, Oklahoma and Jackson, Mississippi round out the five cheapest.