These three counties form a part of the New York-White Plains-Wayne metropolitan division, which, in turn, forms the core of the New York metropolitan area. They are more commonly referred to as the Lower Hudson Valley. This area is home to 1.36 million people, based on the 2010 Census. Westchester County alone has a population of roughly 950,000 and accounts for roughly 70 percent of this region’s population. Rockland has 312,000 residents, while Putnam has just 100,000. Overall, this region’s population grew by just over 4 percent over the past decade—double the rate for New York State overall, but less than half the nationwide growth rate. Population growth during the last decade, ranged from 2.8 percent in Westchester to 8.7 percent in Rockland; Putnam’s population grew by just over 4 percent. All the major cities in this region are in Westchester County. The largest, by far, is Yonkers with a population of just under 200,000; New Rochelle, Mount Vernon and White Plains are each home to between 50,000 and 80,000 residents.
All three counties are relatively affluent and educational attainment is high. Based on 2009 data, median household income was approximately $88,000 in Putnam County, $83,000 in Rockland and $79,000 in Westchester—all well above the nationwide and statewide medians. In terms of educational attainment, 45 percent of Westchester County adults hold college degrees—one of the largest proportions of any county in the state or the nation. Rockland and Putnam are not far behind on this measure, with college grads accounting for roughly 40 percent of adults.
This area’s industry composition tends to be weighted toward the health and education and information sectors, largely in Westchester County. Moreover, a number of major corporations are headquartered in Westchester County; as a result the management of companies is another one of the county’s key industry sectors. While manufacturing in general represents a relatively small share of this region’s economy, chemical manufacturing (mainly pharmaceuticals) is a very important component of Rockland County’s economy. Despite its sizable industry base, a significant proportion of residents commute to jobs in New York City, as well as northern New Jersey and southwestern Connecticut.
During the economic downturn, this area saw fairly steep job losses: employment fell by nearly 6 percent from early 2008 to the end of 2009—only slightly less steeply than nationally. Private-sector employment rebounded modestly in 2010 but this was offset by steep job losses in (mostly local) government. Starting in 2011, however, private-sector employment grew more rapidly, more than offsetting declining government employment. As of the end of 2013, employment remained about 3 percent below its late-2007 peak.
Home prices tend to be relatively high in these areas: base on data from 2007-09, the median home price was more than $560,000 in Westchester County, just above $480,000 in Rockland County and nearly $430,000 in Putnam; these are all substantially more than double the nationwide median of $185,000. Between 2000 and 2006, home prices doubled in all three counties; then, from 2006 to 2010, prices fell by roughly 20 percent in all three counties, before starting to rebound starting in 20111.
Employment trends in the Lower Hudson Valley have weakened noticeably as of mid-2014: total employment has declined to its lowest level in more than a year and remains well below its pre-recession peak. Much of the weakness reflects ongoing job cuts in government, where employment has been falling steadily and stood at a 15-year low at mid-2014. Private-sector employment has drifted down as well, led by job losses in retail trade, finance, information, and construction. However, there have been some pockets of job creation — most notably education & health and professional & business services. After falling by roughly 25 percent during the downturn, home prices have recovered gradually and have risen by about 15 percent from their lows, as of mid-2014.