Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February St. Croix Valley Economic Dashboard Released

The UW- River Falls Center for Economic Research (CER) in partnership with St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) has released the February 2012 edition of the St. Croix Valley Economic Dashboard. The dashboard is a snapshot of the economic condition of the labor, consumer and housing markets in the three 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.

State and National Indicators

Nationally, the economy grew at a seasonally adjusted annually rate of 2.8 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011, up 0.40 percentage points from the previous quarter. Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 243,000 in January, and the unemployment rate, at 8.3 percent, continued to trend down. Job gains occurred in transportation and warehousing, retail trade, manufacturing, health care, and mining. The public sector, though, continued its downward tend, losing 14,000 jobs in January, and public sector job losses remain a significant short-run threat to continued recovery.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was down slightly to 7.1 percent, in December, which was lead by a 0.2 percent increase in employment and a very minor decrease in labor force, according to the BLS survey of households. However, the BLS survey of employers finds that Wisconsin lost 1,700 jobs. It is not uncommon for theses two surveys to conflict slightly because they are measuring different aspects of the economy. The household survey focuses on people living in the state, thus for calculating the unemployment rate we use household survey data. The employer survey focuses on people working in the state, thus we use employer survey data to calculate job creation.

The Philadelphia Fed’s Coincident Index of economic activity indicated the state economy contracted at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.43 percent, and the Philadelphia Fed’s Leading Index is predicting a negative .51 percent growth rate over the next year. The Coincident and Leading indices peeked in March ’11 and January ’11, respectively.

Labor Market

The Wisconsin economy lost 1,700 jobs on net in December, and has gained only 3,200 jobs over the last year.

Job losses occurred in many sectors, but a few sectors saw strong growth. The public sector gained 2,200 jobs, the first gain in 5 months. Manufacturing also grew by 3,300 jobs, along with trade, transportation & utilities sector gaining 2,700 jobs, and construction gaining 1,900 jobs. All other sectors of the economy lost jobs with the leisure and hospitality sector losing the most at 6,100 jobs. Overall the private sector lost 3,900 jobs and the public sector gained 2,200 jobs.

Conditions in the regional labor market are fairing better than the state average. The regional unemployment rate rose in December by 0.37 percentage point to 5.9 percent, lower than the state average of 7.1 percent and comparable to the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) unemployment rate of 5.5 percent. The St. Croix Valley’s relative economic strength, as compared to the rest of the state, appears to be driven by close proximity to the twin cities.

Housing Market

The Case-Shiller Home Price index for Chicago and nationally decreased for the month of November. The Case-Shiller Home Price index for Minneapolis increased for the month of November for the first time in four months. Nationally the home price index has decreased every one of the past seven months. Median home price increased and number of homes sold decreased in the region for the month of January. Number of homes sold was 6.7 percent lower than one year ago and Median home price is 8.7 percent higher than one year ago.

Wisconsin's St. Croix Valley is comprised of St. Croix, Polk, and Pierce counties. All three counties are located along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. Two of the three counties, St. Croix and Pierce, are included in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI metropolitan area, a 13-county region with of population of 3.25 million residents. For additional information on the February edition of the St. Croix Valley Economic Dashboard, contact Dr. Logan Kelly at cer@uwrf.edu or (715) 425-4993 or William Rubin at bill@stcroixedc.com or (715) 381-4383.

*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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