Friday, July 22, 2011

July Momentum West Dashboard Released

The UW- River Falls Center for Economic Research (CER) in partnership with Momentum West has released the July edition of the Momentum West Economic Dashboard. The dashboard is a snapshot of the economic condition of the labor and housing markets in the 10 county Momentum West Economic Development Region. It presents the latest available data* in one convenient package and can be viewed on the CER's website at

The Labor Market

The regional labor market showed a lackluster performance in May. The unemployment rate declined in May by 0.6 percentage points from one year previous to 6.8 percent. This change was driven by a 0.3 year over year percentage increase in total employment and 0.3 year over year percentage decrease in labor force. While the increase in employment, and resulting decline in the unemployment rate, are welcome, the decrease in the labor force is troubling. The region's unemployment rate is lower than the state average of 7.4 percent, but higher than the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) unemployment rate of 6.3 percent.

Nationally, layoffs are picking up. Cisco Systems, Goldman Sachs Group and Lockheed-Martin have all announced significant layoffs, and the chain bookseller, Borders, announced it will be going out of business.  Indeed many companies, Nationwide Insurance is one example, are looking to cut costs. The data supports a similar conclusion that the short run risk of recession is growing and may, at present, outweigh long run concerns over the budget deficit. Total number of layoffs increased from April to May by 172,000 people. This is the largest monthly increase year to date.

Total Layoffs and Discharges

Moreover, the number of persons unemployed less than five weeks, which is often used as a proxy for total layoffs, has increased three of the last four months.

Number Unemployed Less then Five Weeks

Though the Wisconsin economy appears to be preforming slightly better than the national economy, the national picture certainly indicates that road to recovery may be less certain than we would like.

The Housing Market

The housing market may be showing some summer strengthening, but year over year comparisons still indicate a grim reality. The region saw another monthly increase in median home price and number of homes sold. While this is encouraging, nether median home price nor number of homes sold are seasonally adjusted, thus the recent strengthening may be merely the summer home buying market increase. However, the Case-Shiller Home Price index for Minneapolis did show its first positive year over year change in April since June '10.

Home prices in the region remain significantly lower than one year ago. The median home price for the ten-county region in June '11 was approximately $191,000, which is 23 percent bellow June '10.

For additional information on the July edition of the Momentum West Economic Dashboard, contact Dr. Logan Kelly at or (715) 425-4993 or Noel Eggebraaten at or (715) 874-4683.

*Please note that most regional data is available with between a one and two month delay, thus the current month's dashboard will have data from previous months.

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