Quarterly Economic Pulse tracks indicators of recession and recovery
By Elizabeth Peterson, Ph.D.
Last winter, I was involved in a series of discussions that many in the region were having around the economic crisis, what was happening and what we – Greater Twin Cities United Way, foundations, and other nonprofits – could do to meet growing needs in the community. We needed a regular source of current economic information, and a way to keep each other informed of actions and intentions, to combine our energy to maximum effect. The result is a new publication, the Quarterly Economic Pulse.
We teamed up with Twin Cities Compass staff at Wilder Research to produce this new quarterly publication, targeted primarily to those of us in the nonprofit sector. It provides timely information on community needs and nonprofit challenges.
The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits has begun conducting a quarterly survey of its member agencies, and they have kindly agreed to do a special run for us each quarter, pulling out just the data for the health and human service sector. It probably does not surprise anyone that food shelves are seeing more clients and homeless shelters more families. Nonprofits are facing the same challenges as the business sector (financially, that is) but while visits to many businesses are down, visits to many nonprofits are up!
The Pulse is a four-page brief that watches a few key economic (and related) indicators – both local and national – that are updated on at least a quarterly basis, including unemployment and mass layoffs, average weekly wage, consumer confidence, several housing indicators, and others. When possible, it includes forecasts as well.
For instance, did you know that the unemployment rate is still expected to increase to 10 percent before the end of the year, and that while Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke says that the country is on the verge of recovery, Obama economic advisor Christine Romer expects unemployment to average around 9.8 percent in 2010? Or that the Mortgage Bureau Association predicts that the foreclosure situation will not seriously begin to improve until the end of 2010? So, while we may be headed down the road to recovery, we can expect to encounter some potholes and detours along the way.
I know you will want to read the entire piece to get all the latest information, but here are some notable highlights on housing from the new issue:
The moribund housing market is beginning to show signs of life. As you well know, housing has been a major player in this recession, and foreclosures are still a closely-watched indicator. Lender-mediated sales (i.e., foreclosures and short sales) accounted for 44 percent of total closed sales in the metro area in the second quarter of this year. That is up from 24 percent in the same quarter last year. The good news is that overall sales are finally starting to increase: There were more than 12,500 closed sales in the second quarter, a 12 percent increase from the second quarter 2008. So – good news and bad.
There is more good news in the housing sector: Housing affordability has increased dramatically over the last two years, mortgage rates remain low, and apartment vacancy rates are around a healthy five percent. I am a little surprised that the rental market has remained so stable – and I hope it continues!
And finally, the crème de la crème: We conclude with the "so what?" What does all this information mean? What can we expect? What might be coming down the pike, why does it matter and how does it affect me?
Curious to find out? Check out the latest Quarterly Economic Pulse!