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Economic Indicators: Weekly Update for August 19, 2011

Every week the Research staff analyzes key data releases and explain what they mean for you and your business. In this update, we give the highlights of the most important data releases for the week of August 15-August 19, 2011, along with graphs that show the latest movement and overall trends.

At a glance, this table shows the forecast for some of the most pertinent weekly data for REALTORS® to keep in mind. This changes from week to week as new data becomes available. For the full forecast from the latest Pending Home Sales release, click here (PDF).

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Highlights for Monday, August 15, 2011:

  • Home Builders, not surprisingly, continue to feel blue.  The association’s survey of its members’ confidence is stuck low at 15 in the latest reading, same as last month.  A reading of 50 would be considered neutral.
  • This homebuilder survey data is usually released one day ahead of the government data on housing starts and generally is a good guide to new home construction activity.  The data points to about 600,000 housing starts (at an annualized rate) in July.  That would be well below the historical average rate of 1.5 million per year.
  • The lackluster homebuilding sector has been one reason for the holdback in the economic recovery.  Without a housing market recovery, the broader economic recovery will be difficult to sustain.

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Highlights for Tuesday, August 16, 2011:

  • Single family housing starts fell 4.9% in July from June’s sharp monthly increase, which was downwardly revised.  Given how rocky consumer and business confidence was in July the soft July number and the June revision are not a surprise.  Single family construction is roughly the same as last year at just 0.9% down.  Permits for new single family construction are also depressed having eased 3.2% in July and down 1.2% compared to last July reflecting weak builder confidence.
  • Multi-family construction has been on a tear, though.  Starts for multi-family projects are up 7.8% from last month and 47.9% from last year.  The weak economy, tight lending and credit problems in the wake of the housing bust have driven up demand for rental units as well as construction of new rental units.
  • Industrial production jumped 0.9% in July led by a strong 0.6% increase in manufacturing, the 3rd consectuive increase.  Production of of both consumer and business goods rose this month.  Auto production surged 5.9%, while electronics rose 0.8%, but home furnishing remain a lackluster 0.2%.

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Highlights for Wednesday, August 17, 2011:

  • Interest rates on 30-year fixed mortgages continued to decline during the week ending August 12, from 4.37 to 4.32 percent.
  • Mortgage applications rose 4.1 percent, with refinancings gaining 8.0 percent and purchases declining 9.1 percent.
  • Cash purchases—not covered by the mortgage data—accounted for 30.0 percent of transactions in June.

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Highlights for Thursday, August 18, 2011:

  • Initial jobless claims again showed volatility last week, ending a period of declines. The claims were up 9,000 to 408,000. But the four-week average fell for the seventh straight week, down 3,500 to 402,500 which is still nearly 20,000 lower than a month ago. The 400,000 level is generally viewed by economists as a point at which the economy is creating more jobs than losing.
  • Continuing claims were up by 7,000 to 3.702 million with the four-week average.
  • Assuming that new jobless claims continue to trend down as they were up to this week, NAR expects about 1.5 to 2 million net new jobs in the next 12 months.

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Friday, August 19, 2011:

  • State employment data out today show an interesting picture.  While the unemployment rate in the US ticked down 0.1 in July to 9.1 percent, unemployment increased in 28 states and the District of Columbia, declining in only 9 states and remaining unchanged in 13.  The unemployment rate bounces around from month to month and is also affected by changes in the size of the labor force, so while this is not good news, it is not cause for extra concern.
  • The better news came from the payroll jobs side where 31 states and D.C. saw job growth in the month and 44 states and D.C. had positive job growth in the last year.
  • The greatest job growth in July was in Hawaii while Minnesota had the largest job decline (as a share of previous payrolls).
  • By number, New York and Texas topped the list of job gainers at 29,400 and 29,300 jobs created respectively.

Meredith Dunn, Research Communications Manager

Meredith Dunn, Research Communications Representative, manages Real Estate INSIGHTS, the Research Update, and assists in managing Research content on Realtor.org as well as on various social media sites. She also produces video content for the multimedia portion of the Research site.

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