The big news on the housing front last month was not the unexpected declines in existing home sales and new home construction activity; it was former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s revelation that he has been unable to refinance his existing mortgage.
The employment picture brightened again in July as employers added more than 200,000 workers to their payrolls for the sixth consecutive month and June’s strong figure was revised upward to just under 300,000. The improved jobs outlook drew more sidelined workers into the market, pushing the unemployment rate up slightly, from 6.1 percent to 6.2 percent.
“Tomorrow, tomorrow…” Annie’s refrain from the iconic 1970’s musical bearing her name summarizes an increasing number of housing forecasts. As the widely anticipated spring home buying surge has failed to materialize, many analysts have begun scaling back their previously upbeat forecasts, still insisting that much better times are coming – but not today.
The employment figures came in higher in March than they had been trending so far this year ― not quite as high as analysts’ hopes for them, but high enough to ease concerns that the flat to negative growth patterns reflected in several key economic sectors this year might be attributable to something other than the miserable winter weather.
Employers added 175,000 workers to their payrolls in February, surprising analysts, braced for a much weaker report, mirroring the weakness reflected in several key sectors, including retail sales, consumer spending and housing. Revisions in the Department of Labor data also increased the December and January employment totals by about 25,000.
Three years into what is supposed to be a continuing and strengthening housing recovery, some analysts are still wondering if it is sustainable. Recent economic reports have done nothing to dispel those concerns.
The December employment report was ugly – only 74,000 new jobs added for the month. That was well below the 180,000 analysts were expecting, the slowest rate in three years, and a reversal in what had seemed to be a steadily (if slowly) improving employment picture. The unemployment rate declined to 6.7 percent, reaching its lowest level in more than five years. But the improvement came at least in part because discouraged job-seekers have given up.
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