UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
St. Croix Valley Dashboard for January 2016 Released
The UW-River Falls Center for Economic Research (CER) in partnership with the St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) has released the latest edition of the St.
Croix Valley Economic Dashboard. The dashboard is a snapshot of economic conditions in labor, consumer, agricultural and housing markets for the seven
county St. Croix Valley. It presents the latest available data in one convenient package and can be viewed on the CER's website at www.uwrf.edu/cer.
The Local Housing Market
Two new metrics. New to the dashboard in January are two metrics for Wisconsin counties: months of housing inventory and the sale to list price ratio.
The months of housing inventory estimates how many months it would take to sell all currently listed homes if the number of homes sold remains constant at current levels. Months of housing inventory has decreased significantly for all Wisconsin counties in the valley since November 2014. This indicates an improving housing market and that next summer may well be a sellers' market.
The sale to list price ratio is the median sale price as a percent of the median listing price. The closer this ratio is to 100% the closer listing and sale prices match. A high ratio is an indicator of a seller's market and a low ratio is an indicator of a buyer's market.
The housing market continues to strengthen. While the median home listing price for the region decreased by 18.6% from last year and the number of homes listed in the region has decreased considerably vs December 2014, both months of housing inventory and the sale to list price ratio indicate that (i) the after math of the housing market bubble is finally ending and (ii) supply of homes relative to demand is tightening. Looking ahead to 2016, the housing market may well be heating up.
The US Economy
Output. Overall the economic outlook for 2016 looks good. Real GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.0 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to the "third" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 3.9 percent. The deceleration in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected a downturn in private inventory investment and decelerations in exports, personal consumption, nonresidential fixed investment, and in state and local government spending. The advanced estimate of fourth quarter Real GDP is expected January 29, 2016.
Capacity utilization, i.e. the fraction of overall productive capacity being used, is down slightly since one year previous, but is still very strong at 77% in November. This is still very encouraging for growth over the next 12 months. The Philadelphia Fed's Leading Index for the United States is forecasting 1.5% growth over the next six months.
Labor Market. The national job report (Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Report) held very good news. Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 292,000 in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.0 percent. Employment gains occurred in several industries, led by professional and business services, construction, health care, and food services and drinking places. Moreover, the change in total nonfarm employment for October was revised up from 298,000 to 307,000, and the change for November was revised up from 211,000 to 252,000. With these revisions, employment gains in October and November combined were 50,000 higher than previously reported.
Over the past 3 months, job gains have averaged 284,000 per month, and while the number of involuntary part-time workers was little changed at 6.0 million in December, this statistic is down by 764,000 over the year of 2015. In December, 1.8 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, which is down by 427,000 from a year earlier. Among the marginally attached, there were 663,000 discouraged workers in December, little changed from a year earlier (Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them).
Overall, the labor market has improved significantly over 2015. However, structural unemployment, that is persons unemployed because they do not possess skills demanded by the labor market, remains a stubborn problem.
National Inflation and Interest Rates. The Consumer Price Index, an inflationary indicator based on the average price of a fixed basket of consumer goods, was all but unchanged, showing a 0.44% year over year increase in November. Leading indicators of inflation, namely the producer price index and the employment cost index are both signaling little if any inflationary pressure. Though none of the current inflation indicators point to near term inflationary pressure, the economy is exhibiting good growth and the labor market is strong. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to expect the Federal Reserve to continue to slowly increase interest rates throughout 2016.
Minnesota and Wisconsin
Employment. Total nonfarm employment in Wisconsin decreased by 4,800, and total nonfarm employment in Minnesota increased by 7,200. In Wisconsin, nearly all sectors saw job loss with the most significant job losses occurring in professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and government. In Minnesota, nearly all sectors saw job gains with the most significant job creation occurring in construction and government. The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MSA gained 900 jobs. The unemployment rate in both states decreased, 4.2% in Wisconsin, and 3.5% in Minnesota.
Housing Market. The Wisconsin REALTORS® Association reported that the housing market continued its healthy pace of growth in November with both sales and median prices increasing compared to November 2014. November home sales increased 3.4 percent and the median price rose 3.4 percent to $150,000.
"We expected positive growth in 2015, but this has definitely exceeded our expectations," said K.C. Maurer, WRA board chairman. "The state is on pace to exceed 75,000 homes sold for the year. The last time we sold that many homes was 2005 when just over 78,000 homes were sold. This robust market is attributable to an improving economy and low mortgage rates," Maurer said.
The Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which is a more accurate measure of overall home prices than is median home price, continued to show improvement. The home price index has exhibited consistently positive year over year change. Moreover, the number of homes listed for sale has declined while the average listing price has increased indicating strong demand relative to supply.
Regional Indicators. The regional labor market continues to be strong. Across the St. Croix Valley, unemployment rates fell in all counties from one year ago. Labor Force and Employment increased in all but Dunn County, indicating a strengthening in employment conditions. The unemployment rate in the region remains at or below the state average for all counties, except Polk County.