Wednesday, June 27, 2012

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NAR: Pending home sales growth up in U.S. West, but weak compared to nation

Pending home sales in the  US rose in May by 15.3 percent, year over year, according to new pending home sales data released today by the National Association of Realtors. According to the press release:

“The housing market is clearly superior this year compared with the past four years.  The latest increase in home contract signings marks 13 consecutive months of year-over-year gains,” he said.  “Actual closings for existing-home sales have been notably higher since the beginning of the year and we’re on track to see a 9 to 10 percent improvement in total sales for 2012.”

All regions of the country showed gains in pending home sales, year over year.

In the West, pending home sales increased 7.1 percent from May 2011 to May 2012. The West had the smallest year-over-year increase of all regions. Pending home sales increased 22 percent in the midwest.

Overall, the numbers are weaker in the West than in the other regions and in the nation as a whole. Actual sales closings appear to be up in 2012, with increases ranging from 5 percent to 10 percent in metro Denver and statewide. See more.

The graph shows that pending home sales activity has yet to reach to levels experienced during the final days of the homebuyer tax credits - which here show up as high pending sales numbers during April 2010:

More than half of new SF building permits issued in only four counties

Of the 4,007 new single-family permits issued during the first five months of 2012, 2,314 of them, or 57 percent, were issued in El Paso, Weld, Douglas and Larimer counties alone. According to new May single-family permit data by county, released by the Census Bureau, the counties with the largest numbers of single-family permits issued during the first four months of 2012 were El Paso, Douglas, Weld and Larimer, with El Paso reporting more single-family permits during the period than any other county.

See here for recent posts about building permits.

New single-family permits during January-April 2012
El Paso 876
Douglas 612
Weld 409
Larimer 417

Adams 257
Arapahoe 318
Boulder 100
Broomfield 42
Chaffee 52
Elbert 15
Jefferson 289
Mesa 139
Park 21
Pueblo 52
Routt 12
Teller 17

(Note: All permits discussed in this article are single-family permits.)

However, when permit totals are adjusted to the number of existing housing units in each county, the counties with the largest amounts of permit activity were Douglas, Weld, El Paso, El Paso and Chaffee counties.These counties have reported some of the highest permitting rates for several months..

During the first four months of 2012, the metro counties with the smallest amount of new single-family permits relative to the size of the existing stock were Boulder and Pueblo counties. 

In a larger context, single-family permits remain well below totals experienced prior to 2007. From 2006 to 2008, single-family permits in the state decreased 60 percent from 31,000 to 12,000. Permit activity appears to have bottomed out in 2009. When discussing permit activity from 2008 to the present time, even in areas that report substantial increases, we're looking at permit totals that are near 20-year lows.However, growth rates during 2012 so far has been greater than what has been seen in recent years.

Largest year over year increases among metro counties (including January-May):
Arapahoe 34 percent
Denver 35 percent
Jefferson 56 percent
Larimer 60 percent
Weld 63 percent
Douglas 110 percent
El Paso 44 percent

Largest year over year decreases among metro counties (including January-May):

Pueblo 13 percent

Pueblo county was the only metro county to report a year-over-year decline in single-family permits.

Conclusions: Single family permitting continues to increase in all metro areas of the state except Pueblo, with rate of increase ranging from about 16 percent (Mesa County) to 110 percent (Douglas County). Statewide, overall growth in single-family permits continues to grow, although rates remain well below what was seen six or seven years ago. The overall trend is toward mild growth in single-family permits, although many areas of the state are reporting growth in multifamily permits that exceeds 100 percent or more, year over year.

Personal income up in Colorado, but lags price increases

Total personal income in Colorado was up  3.6 percent from the first quarter of 2011 to the same period this year. According to new data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, personal income growth in the state has been positive for the past nine quarters, although the growth rate has been decreasing for the past five quarters.

Total personal income in Colorado is now up 5.4 percent from the 2008 peak reached before the financial crisis of 2008. However, the consumer price index has increased by about 6.5 percent over the same period, so total personal income has actually declined over this period in real terms.

The first graph shows personal income and personal income growth rates in Colorado over the past decade. Personal income declined during 2009 and early 2010, but has grown over the past two years. Personal income as shown here is not adjusted for inflation.

Nationwide, personal income growth has been less strong than has been the case in Colorado: Total personal income has increased by 5.0 percent from 2008 peak levels nationwide, and it was up 2.8 percent from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012.

It is worth noting, however, that total personal income can be increased through population growth, while on a per capita basis, personal income may be weaker in Colorado than nationwide. See here for more.

The effect of personal current transfer receipts

An important component of personal income is "personal current transfer receipts." These are forms of income not tied to wages and employment income and include payments such as social security payments, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

When personal current transfer receipts are removed from personal income, income growth is not as robust.

The second chart shows personal income minus personal current transfer receipts.

Without the inclusion of transfer receipts, personal income in Colorado is up 2.5 percent from peak levels. Personal income is up by 5.4 percent from peak levels when personal current transfer receipts are included. Neither growth rate exceeds the price inflation rate.Since 2008, however, personal current transfer receipts, when taken separately from overall personal income, have increased by 29 percent while income from wages have increased by 3.1 percent.

 Nationwide, as of the first quarter of this year, personal income minus transfer receipts was up 2.1 percent, compared to a 5 percent growth rate for all income overall. Over the same period nationwide, transfer receipts were up 21 percent while income from wages were up 3.9 percent.

Rates of increase have been slowing over the past year.


Total personal income is up in Colorado, likely driven by continued population increases and by increases in personal current transfer receipts. Overall personal income growth has not kept up with the consumer price index since 2008's peak levels, however.

Note: Personal income is the income received by all persons from all sources. Personal income is the sum of net earnings by place of residence, property income, and personal current transfer receipts. Total personal income will rise as population rises, even if household incomes are declining. Property income is rental income of persons, personal dividend income, and personal interest income. Net earnings is earnings by place of work (the sum of wage and salary disbursements, supplements to wages and salaries, and proprietors' income) less contributions for government social insurance, plus an adjustment to convert earnings by place of work to a place-of-residence basis. Personal income is measured before the deduction of personal income taxes and other personal taxes and is reported in current dollars (no adjustment is made for inflation).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Multifam permits keep growing in Denver while they surge in Broomfield

Year-to-date through May of 2012, more than two-thirds of all new multifamily permits issued have been issued in Denver, Broomfield and Douglas counties alone. 

According to new multifamily permit data for Colorado counties, 3,052 multifamily permits have been issued from January through May of 2012. 2,056 of them, or 67 percent, were issued in Denver, Broomfield and Douglas counties. Adding in El Paso and Boulder counties brings the total to 2,720, or 89 percent, of all multifamily permits through May.

Few other counties issued many multifamily permits as of May of this year.

May's numbers significantly shift the landscape of multifamily permits in the state. Broomfield County had not been notable for its multifamily permits for most of 2012 through April, but 427 new multifamily permits were issued during May alone, bringing Broomfield's 2012 multifamily permit total to 573 for the year. Only Denver county has issued more multifamily permits so far this year. 

Total multifamily permits issued, Jan-May 2012
Adams 220
Arapahoe 49
Boulder 327
Denver 948
Douglas 535
El Paso 337
Jefferson 8
Larimer 50
Mesa 0
Pueblo 0
Weld 5

With so little demand for new condominiums right now, it is safe to assume that the lopsided majority of new multifamily permits being issued are for rental housing. We see most of this activity in areas where vacancy rates have been tight or look to be tight for the near to mid-term.

With apartment vacancy rates headed below five percent in the metro Denver area, the markets appear to be responding to tight vacancies with plans for future construction. Larimer county has also been a very active county for new multifamily activity over the past 18 months, although 2012 is a moderate year for Larimer county so far.

Change since 2011

Some counties saw very large increases in the number of multifamily permits issued. From January-May of 2011 to the same period this year, in Douglas County, multifamily permits increased more than 5,000% from 10 to 535, while in Adams county they increased from 0 to 220. Boulder County also saw a big increase with a rise in multifamily permits from 0 to 327, year over year through May, and Broomfield saw the largest increase from 0 multifamily permits to 573 permits, year over year through May. 

There was no multifamily permit activity at all in Pueblo County over the period, and Weld County increased only slightly from 0 to 5.

Condo prices head up in Colorado in April 2012

The median price for condos and townhomes in the metro Denver area increased 5.6 percent, year over year, in April 2012. According to home price information for condos and townhomes, released by the Colorado Association of Realtors, the median price in the region rose to $130,591 from April 2011's median price of $123,579. Statewide, the median price rose 9.6 percent, rising from April 2011's price of $127,529 to April 2012's price of $139,803. In the Pikes Peak region, the median price rose 2.9 percent to $125,651 during April, rising from April 2011's price of $122,000.(The monthly median prices discussed in this article are 3-month moving averages.)

As can be seen in the first graph, the larger trend is on in which condo prices continue to slide from peak levels reached back in 2006. Unlike single-family prices which quickly fell in 2009 and then rebounded somewhat, condo prices have seen a long slide over the past several years. The largest decline is seen in the statewide condo prices, and this is likely due to large dropoffs in prices for condo found in several mountain communities.However, we see a larger increase in the statewide median price during April. 

As expected, the data shows that prices in condos and townhomes are significantly lower than single-family home prices.  In recent months, the statewide median price had fallen below that found in both metro Denver and in the Pikes Peak region, but surged in March and April. 

The second graph shows year over year changes in median home prices for condos and townhomes. April 2012 was the first month to experience year-over-year increases in all three areas measured since December 2009. Since 2010, year-over-year changes have been mostly negative, although the Pikes peak region has shown increases inspire of declining numbers of transactions.

Colo. Springs condo sales fall again, metro Denver and statewide condo sales rise

Condo sales transactions in metro Denver and statewide were up from 2011 during April, but remained down from 2010 totals. Statewide, the condo home sales index was up 0.1 percent in April 2012 compared to April 2011, while in metro Denver, the condo sales index was up 4.6 percent.

The first graph shows that condo and townhome sales activity has been very slightly up from 2011's lows. The trend was almost continually downward from 2006 through 2011.

In the Pikes Peak area, condo sales have rather oddly flattened out, and have not followed the usual cyclical patterns in recent months. The condo sales index for April 2012 was down 2.4 percent from April 2011 and suggests a rather stagnant market in condo sales in the region.

We can remove seasonal effects by using a 12-month moving average which will give us a good view of multi-year trends:

This recent growth trend in statewide and metro Denver sales is reinforced in the 12-month moving averages used to track trends in home sales.The third graph shows the 12-month moving averages in total condo and townhome sales in metro Denver and statewide. The overall trend since 2007 is clearly downward, although average statewide sales have largely stabilized since late 2009. Until recently, the moving average for condo and townhome sales had continued to move downward through late 2010 and most of 2011, but there have been numerous small increases in recent months.

The 12-month moving average for Denver has flattened out over the past six months, and the statewide average has declined slightly in recent months. However, year-over-year changes remain positive over the past three months for both areas.

The fourth graph shows year-over-year changes in the 12-month condo and townhome sales average. The moving average in statewide sales increased 5.3 percent, which was the largest year-over-year increase since September 2010.  The metro Denver average rose 5.1 percent and was the largest year over year increase for metro Denver since June 2010.

In the Pikes peak region, the trend is still downward, and following the end of the homebuyer tax credit, we have seen 13 months in a row during which the the 12-month moving average in condo and townhome sales have been down from the year prior. April's decline in the condo-sales index is reflected in the 12-month average here as condo sales activity fell again. In the 12-month average, condo sales were down 12.6 percent, year over year, in April 2012.

The condo-sale index is a 3-month moving average of condo and townhome sales transactions (closings).

Housing News Digest, June 26

Mostly fire-related housing news today:

Colorado wildfire out of control, residents evacuated (+videos) At least 11,000 residents of the town of Manitou Springs and nearby communities of Cascade, Chipita Park and Green Mountain Falls were ordered to leave Saturday or early Sunday. The resort communities include campgrounds, inns, rental cabins and other vacation properties that were emptied, though it wasn't immediately clear how many people those evacuations included.

 Fire threatens tourist spots, military academy The total number of homes destroyed by a two-week old wildfire in northern Colorado was raised to 248 on Sunday as residents of a subdivision near Fort Collins learned that 57 more homes in their neighborhood had been lost, authorities said.

 Homeowners can’t add insurance as wildfire burns Farmers Insurance Group has received multiple calls from homeowners either trying to obtain insurance or increase their current coverage, said Jim Duresky, an insurance agent with the firm. But insurance companies are not allowed to offer policies to homeowners if their house is threatened by wildfire. State Farm has a similar policy, and a fire has to be 100 percent contained before the company can increase coverage or write new coverage for homes that were threatened by a wildfire, said Ken Willyard, a State Farm agent.

22 Homes Lost In Estes Park Fire; 100 Percent Contained Investigators say the Woodland Heights Fire in Estes Park wasn’t very big, but it was very destructive. The blaze, which burned 27 acres, apparently started in a cabin and destroyed 22 residences and two outbuildings on the west side of Estes Park. Officials said the fire was fully contained by Sunday night.

Colorado effort to change foreclosure law suspended for different tact Backers of Initiative 84, the ballot proposal that would require lenders to prove they have the right to foreclose on a home, on Friday said they were suspending their efforts for a legislative one instead. The surprise decision comes just three days after proponents won a key decision at the Colorado Supreme Court, which said the process that moved it toward the November ballot had been proper.

Realtors: Home sales up in Denver, Colo. Springs, statewide

The home sales index for April 2012 was up 9 percent from April 2011, and hit a 2-year high for April, although overall activity remains down from April 2010 when the homebuyer tax credit increased sales activity.  The index, which is just a 3-month moving average for sales totals provided by the Colorado Association of Realtors, was at 2,617 sales during April 2012. There were 2,726 sales during April 2010. This article examines single-family homes only.

The first graph shows the 3-month moving average for each month. Sales activity has increased from 2011's 10-year lows.

Looking at the broader trend, we do find that home sales activity has been up in recent months. In the 12-month moving average, which removes the monthly seasonal issues, we see that there have been seven months in a row of year-over-year increases. Sales totals are still down significantly from where they were during 2005 and 2006, but they have come up about 10 percent from the sales nadir reached during May 2011.

We see a similar trend statewide in home sales, where the home sales index has been up, year over year, for each of the past ten months and is now at the highest value for April seen since 2008.

We also see an overall building trend of more sales activity at the statewide level in the 12-month moving average. The 12-month average has been up year over year for the past seven months, and reached a growth rate of 9.2 percent during April 2012, which is the largest growth rate since March 2005.  We can see that the 12-month overage overall has been building since June of 2011:

The Colorado Springs area is also showing signs of growth, although at a smaller pace. The home sales index for April 2012 was up 2.2 percent over April 2011 and has increased year over year for nine months in a row. 

The year-over-year increase in the 12-mo average was also relatively moderate and was at 5.6 percent during April and was down from February's rate of growth, which was 6 percent. This is a little different from what we saw in metro Denver and statewide where the year-over-year change in the 12-mo average has repeatedly grown during recent months.

Demographics continue to benefit home sellers. In-migration looks to continue to be relatively strong while new single-family production continues to be 60 to 70 percent below peak levels. Increases in home prices continue to be rather moderate, and suggests that new home construction is not about to boom.

Case-Shiller: Metro Denver home price growth accelerates

Case-Shiller released its home price index for April 2012 today. The home price index for the Denver area rose 1.7 percent percent from March to April, and rose 2.8 percent, year over year, from April 2011 to April 2012.  The year-over-year increase in April was the fourth year-over-year increase in a row for Denver, and was the largest increase in 23 months . The first graph shows the index values since 2001:

According to S&P's press release, home prices nationwide started to show some signs of growth:

“With April 2012 data, we finally saw some rising home prices,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. “On a monthly basis, 19 of the 20 MSAs and both Composites rose in April over March. Detroit was the only city that saw prices fall, down 3.6%. In addition, 18 of the 20 MSAs and both Composites saw better annual rates of return. It has been a long time since we enjoyed such broadbased gains. While one month does not make a trend, particularly during seasonally strong buying months, the combination of rising positive monthly index levels and improving annual returns is a good sign."

In year-over-year comparisons for March, Atlanta showed the largest drop, with a decline of 17 percent, while the index in Las Vegas fell 5.8 percent. Year over year, home price indices fell in 10 of the 20 cities included in the study. Denver was among the ten cities reporting increases, and had the fourth-largest increase of the twenty cities. Only Phoenix, Miami and Minneapolis reported larger year-over-year increases in the home price index than Denver.

The second chart shows trends in the Case-Shiller index for the Denver area and for the 20-city composite index. It is clear that Denver did not experience the kind of price bubble that occurred in many other metropolitan areas, and consequently, the index has not fallen nearly as far in Denver compared to the larger composite.

The 20-city composite is down 34 percent since it peaked in July 2006, but the Denver index is down only 10 percent from its August 2006 peak.

Although the Denver index showed some significant growth in April compared to April of last year, the Denver index during April was at levels comparable to those found during 2003.

The third chart compares year-over-year changes in the Denver area index and in the 20-city composite. Overall, the index has been less volatile in Denver than has been the case for the 20-city composite. The year-over-year change in the 20-city composite during April was again negative with a decrease of 1.9 percent while Denver reported an increase of 2.8 percent, and also increased  for the fourth month in a row. In the 20-city index, the year-over-year change has been negative for the past 19 months.

The last chart provides a closer look at year-over-year changes in the Denver index. Note that the change was below zero between June 2010 and December 2011, and likely reflects the end of the homebuyer tax credit’s end which has led to a fall in demand and a decline in the home price index. The upward trend in the index in response to the tax credit is clear during late 2009 and early 2010. Home prices showed increases in Denver compared to 2011 during the first quarter of 2012, and April's relatively large increase of 2.8 percent suggests continued strength in the demand for home purchases, at least in the short term .

Monday, June 25, 2012

Colo. Realtors: Prices accelerate in Denver area, flatten in Colorado Springs and statewide

Median home prices for single-family homes during April 2012 fell in Colorado and in the Pikes Peak region, but were up in the metro Denver area. According to median home price data for April, released last week by the Colorado Association of Realtors, the median home price for single-family homes in the Denver area was $232,771 during April, which is an increase of 4 percent from April of 2011.  Statewide, the median home price was $195,575 during April, a drop of 1 percent from the same month last year. The median price in the Pikes Peak region rose 0.3 percent, year over year, rising to $186,560 during April. (The values presented here are actually 3-month moving averages for each month, so April's median prices are averages of February, March, and April prices.)This article discusses single-family median home prices only.

The first graph shows the median single-family home price for the state and for the metro Denver and Pikes Peak regions. Median home prices fell dramatically in all three measures following the financial crisis of late 2008, but moved back up quickly by mid-2009. Since mid-2009, however, median home prices have been largely flat in metro Denver. In the Pikes Peak region, on the other hand, the median price remains well below peak levels and continues to decline slowly following a new 2010 peak.  Statewide, as is typical, the median price has been more volatile, but has not recovered as much as the metro Denver median. Statewide, declining prices in western Colorado are a factor in statewide price declines.

The metro Denver area, where the median price is 10 percent below its August 2007 peak levels, has recovered the most. Metro Denver prices appear to have stabilized since 2009, and the metro Denver median price has increased four out of the past five months, year over year.  The statewide median price is now 18 percent below its August 2008 peak. The Pikes Peak median price fell in April to 24 percent below its July 05 peak.

The second graph shows that the Denver median price has shown the most growth when compared to Colorado statewide and the Pikes Peak region. Only Denver has shown any significant year-over-year increases since early 2011. The pattern for the metro Denver area right now appears to be one of acclerating growth in median home prices, which also mirrors data from Case-Shiller.

Recent home sales transaction data indicates that demand for home purchasing continues to build. However, this has not yet translated into sustained and significant home price increases beyond metro Denver and northern Colorado. Bargain hunting and demand among the lower price ranges has combined to keep median prices below what was seen during peak levels several years ago.

The home price data provided by the Colorado Association of Realtors is based on home sales transactions that are listed in the MLS systems for each area and do not include for-sale-by-owner transactions or new homes sold directly by home builders.

Colorado had 32nd-best unemployment rate in May

The Bureau of Labor Statistics last week released employment information on all states for May 2012.The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for Colorado during May was 8.1 percent.

According to the BLS press release:

Regional and state unemployment rates were little changed in May. Eighteen states recorded unemployment rate increases, 14 states and the District of Columbia posted rate decreases, and 18 states had no change, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia registered unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, while only one state experienced an increase. The national jobless rate, at 8.2 percent, was essentially unchanged from April, and 0.8 percentage point lower than May 2011.
Colorado was one of the 49 states that reported decreases in the unemployment rate, year over year. The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate in Colorado fell from 8.4 percent during May 2011 to 8.1 percent during May 2012.

Colorado's unemployment ranking has worsened somewhat compared to other states. Last December, for example, Colorado had the 25th-best unemployment rate, but has since fallen to 32nd-best

Colorado's unemployment rate remains below that of the nation -barely - continuing a trend that has been in place since 2005.

The graph shows a comparison between the two rates since 2006:

The unemployment rate in Colorado, seasonally adjusted, rose to 8.1 percent during May from April's rate of 7.9 percent.  The rate had been flat at 7.8 percent for January, February and March of this year. The national rate rose to 8.2 percent from April's rate of 8.1 percent.

For the most part, Colorado remains in the middle of the pack when it comes to statewide unemployment rates, but has seen its rate rise above more states in recent months. At the regional level, however, Colorado contains some metro areas that have unemployment rate well below the national rate, such as the Boulder area and the Fort Collins area.

The trend however suggests that in the near term at least,  Colorado's unemployment rate is now no longer significantly below the national rate, reversing the trend that was seen during 2009 through 2011.

New home sales up 14 percent in U.S. West for May 2012

New single-family home sales in the U.S. West rose 14 percent from May 2011 to May 2012, but total sales remain near post-recession lows.  According to today's New Home Sales report, released by the Census Bureau,there were 8,000 new home sales in the Western U.S. during May 2012.

The report, which monitors sales activity for newly constructed houses, reported that in the West, new home sales were up from May 2011's 7,000 new homes sold.  Nationwide, sales rose 25 percent, rising from 28,000 to 35,000 during the same period.

Although they were up year over year, sales in May were down from April 2012's total of 9,000.

The first graph shows monthly new home sales totals for each month since 2003.  While new home sales were at a three-year high for the region, they remained down significantly from 2009's recessionary totals.

For the West region:

The second graph shows that new home sales continue to be well below peak levels, although they have begun to slowly move up in recent months. 

New home sales peaked during the spring and summer of 2005 and have generally trended downward since. The number of new houses sold in the United States is down 72 percent since the peak of March 2005, and new home sales in the West have fallen 78 percent since sales peaked in the region during March 2004.

The third graph shows the declines in both US and regional totals in new homes for sale.

The number of new homes for sale has also fallen off considerably. The number of new houses for sale in the West has fallen 76 percent since the total peaked during June 2007, and the same total has fallen 74 percent in the US since the number of new homes for sale peaked in the US during August 2006.

With 32,000 new homes for sale in May 2012, the number of new single-family homes for sale in the West remained near April 2012's ten-year low of 31,000.

As a final note, we can also look to the new home inventory. In this case, we calculate inventory by subtracting the number of new home sales in a given month from the number of new homes for sale at the end of the previous month. In the final graph, we see that the inventory is near a ten-year low, and is at 23,000 homes.  This is good news for owners seeking to sell homes since it suggests that fewer new homes are sitting and waiting to be sold, thus diminishing some of the inventory-driven downward pressure on prices. Inventory has also been down in existing home sales, as noted here.

Overall, this report shows that while new home sales are not declining, they are not showing growth either. Inventory is at very low levels, although median home price growth in existing homes may not be sufficient to spur a large amount of new single-family construction.

Housing News Digest, June 25

Wildfire forces thousands from homes near Colorado Springs
A fast-growing wildfire has forced thousands of residents from homes in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and nearby communities as firefighters struggled on Sunday to contain out-of-control and wind-stoked blazes in several western U.S. states.

Realtor: Northern Colorado housing market growing again LOVELAND — These are unprecedented times to buy and sell real estate, according to those who buy and sell. Coming off a 5-year slump that saw home prices and home sales slide, the Fort Collins and Loveland market has equalized and started to grow with average sale prices up about 1 percent, record low interest rates at about 3.75 percent and decreasing inventory, said Eric Thompson, president of The Group Real Estate.

 In suburban America, middle class begins to confront poverty BOULDER, Colo. – The small communities that dot the picturesque mountain landscape outside Boulder, Colo., conjure up an image from long before the great recession. Here the manicured lawns and expensive cars are a testament to the achievements of a fiercely independent and educated middle class; a 21st century version of suburban bliss. But often these days, the closed doors of well-kept houses hide a decidedly different reality: hushed conversation about food stamps and Medicaid, depleted bank accounts and 401K’s, kitchen shelves stocked with groceries from food pantries.

 Murky foreclosure process kicks Colorado woman out of home But aside from the emotional strain of being kicked out of her home, Hoffman experienced another problem: The lender that was trying to evict her was not the lender she had signed her mortgage agreement with. “My mortgage had been bought and sold so many times,” she explained. “It was unclear who the lender was and it’s still unclear today.” In fact her home, which is about 30 miles from downtown Denver, sat empty for months -- and not because no one wanted to buy it. She says her multiple lenders were fighting over ownership and thus couldn’t transfer title.

 Commerce City wants to register owners of foreclosed houses Commerce City officials are looking for new ways to address abandoned and foreclosed single-family homes. City Council is developing a registration program that would make it easier to track who is in charge of vacant, abandoned and foreclosed houses in the city.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

NAR's May housing summary: inventory down, prices up in most metros

The Monthly Housing Summary for May has been released by the National Association of Realtors. I've pulled out the data for Colorado metro areas below:

MSA_City MedianPrice MedianPrice_YY Listings Listings_YY MedianAge
Denver  CO $269 000 6.03% 8287
Colorado Springs  CO $230 000 6.97% 3967 -20.32% 63
Boulder-Longmont  CO $377 000 5.65% 2556 -12.36% 55
Fort Collins-Loveland  CO $259 000 3.64% 2637 -11.32% 67
Pueblo  CO $137 350 -1.82% 995 -32.12% 70

United States $194 900 3.17% 1876924 -20.07% 83

Some of the more interesting stats here:

The median age of listed homes - they much older in Pueblo than elsewhere, and much younger in the Denver area.

As expected, listings are much more numerous in Denver than in other metros, and listings are down in all areas. For some reason, Denver doesn't list a year-over-year change in listings, but according to, listings were down 32 percent in the Denver area from May 2011 to May 2012.

The median price was down in Pueblo, year over year, which was expected, although Colorado Springs prices were much stronger in this analysis than in some others we've seen such as the FHFA analysis and the Zillow analysis.

Existing home sales in West at highest point since the tax credits expired

Existing home sales in the U.S. West region, which includes Colorado,  increased 7.7 percent from May 2011 to May 2012. According to new existing home sales data, recently released by the National Association of Realtors, the median home price rose more in the West than in any other region, rising 13.4 percent, year over year. The median home price in the Northeast, on the other hand, rose 3.8 percent from May 2011 to May 2012.

The rise in prices was likely precipitated by rising home sales which as of May are at the highest level experienced since the homebuyer tax credit expired in 2010. During May 2012, existing home sales rose month over month to 112,000, coming close to September 2010's 118,000 home sales which came at the end of the tax credit period. Home sales were pushed up in 2010 as the tax credits wound down.  Many months of declining sales followed the end of the tax credits, and May's increase signals a rise to some of the largest amounts of home sales activity we've seen in two years.

The first graph shows median home prices for all regions plus the U.S. The median home price in the west had been generally flat during 2011. Buit prices in the west have accelerated upward during the past two months, rising to $233,900 during May 2012.

Nationally, home prices rose 7.9 percent, year over year.

Home sales transactions (closings) rose 7.7 percent in the West region, which was the smallest increase in home sales closings of any region, year-over-year. Home sales rose 21 percent in the Midwest from May 2010 to May 2011, and closings rose by 11 percent nationally during the same period.

The second graph shows closings by region. In general, closings increased each month from January 2012 to May 2011, following seasonal patterns. All regions showed a month-over-month increases, and all regions showed increases in the year-over-year comparisons for May.

The NAR data tends to be one of the more optimistic among the various reports on home prices and home sales activity, reporting larger increases than what we've seen regionally or locally. See here for more. 

According to NAR, home closings were hampered by a lack of inventory. According to the NAR press release:
There are broad-based shortages of inventory in the lower price ranges in much of the country except the Northeast, and in the West supply is extremely tight in all price ranges except for the upper end. "Realtors® in Western states have been calling for an expedited process to get additional foreclosed properties onto the market because they have more buyers than available property," Yun added. Widespread inventory shortages also are found in much of Florida.

Buildfax: Remodeling activity grows in U.S. West region

According to Buildfax, remodeling activity, an indicator of household spending on real estate, grew in all regions of the US., including the West:

 Residential remodels authorized by building permits in the United States in April were at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 2,729,000. This is 2 percent above the revised March rate of 2,683,000 and is 12 percent above the April 2011 estimate of 2,447,000.

Regional Residential Remodeling

Seasonally-adjusted annual rates of remodeling across the country in April 2012 are estimated as follows: Northeast, 397,656 (up 5% from March and up 11% from April 2011); South, 1,102,000 (up 5% from March and up 14% from April 2011); Midwest, 484,000 (down 11% from March and up 7% from April 2011); West, 768,000 (up 2% from March and up 10% from April 2011).

Viewing the Economic Recovery Through Remodeling

"Remodeling continues to grow steadily in the U.S. on a seasonally-adjusted basis; more residential remodeling projects were started in April 2012 than in any of the prior six Aprils," said Joe Emison, Vice President of Research and Development at BuildFax.

Buildfax archives

April multifamily permits hit 10-year high

Through April 2012 in Colorado this year, building permits issued for multifamily construction were up 125 percent, year over year, while permits issued for single-family construction were up 31 percent for the same period.

During April 2012, 884 multifamily permits were issued in Colorado, and 1070 single-family permits were issued. During April 2011, there were 202 multi-family permits issued, and 857 single-family permits issued. The first graph shows permit activity for the first four months of the year since 1998. Through April of this year, there have been 3389 single-family permits and 1992 multifamily permits issued.

The second graph shows that overall, both multi-family and single-family permits in April were at levels well below what were typical over the past decade. During recent months, however, both multi-family and single-family permits have shown a slow upward trend.

During April 2012, the number of new multi-family permits issued was up from April 2011, and was at a ten-year high for April. April 2002, when 1,223 mf permits were issued, was the last time there were more multifamily permits issued during the month.

Single-family permits for April were at a four-year high. April 2008 was the last time there were more single-family permits during April.

Once again, multi-family growth trends outpaced single-family growth, and April 2012 was one of the strongest months for multifamily activity in recent years. We must look back to October 2008 to find any month with more multifamily permits issued.

Summary: As can be seen in the second graph, overall permit activity is building although it remains well below peak levels. Both single-family and multi-family permits were at multi-year highs during April.

Home price growth in mountain region hits 5-year high

House prices in April in the Mountain region, which includes Colorado, were up substantially, rising 6.4 percent, year-over-year from April 2011 to April 2012. Nationally, the house price index rose 3.03 percent over the same period. The new house price index numbers, released last week by the Federal Housing and Finance Agency, also showed that the national index is down 17.6 percent from the peak level reached in June 2007, while the Mountain region's index is down 28.3 percent over the same period.

The FHFA monthly index is calculated using purchase prices of houses purchased with loans that have been sold to or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It is a repeat-sales index similar to the Case-Shiller index, but limited to GSE loans.

April's year over year increase is the third monthy increase in a row this year following more than four years of monthly declines.

Although it has shown more negative growth than other indices in recent years, the decline in FHFA monthly house prices in the region generally reflects overall trends also found in other home price indices such as the CoreLogic index and the Case-Shiller index. According to FHFA, prices have largely stabilized over the past several months, but remain slightly down from 2009 and 2010 levels. Home prices in Colorado and the Denver area are slowly increasing in other indices and have shown growth for the past 2-3 months, depending on the index.

The second graph shows each month's house price index compared to the same month a year earlier:

April 2012 was the 3rd month in a row during which the house price index fell year over year, following 52 months of year-over-year declines. 

The overall trend among most home price indices is one of slowly increasing prices in recent months. This trend includes Colorado statewide as well as the metro Denver area.

FHFA: Home prices rise in all metros except Colo. Springs, Grand Jct. and Pueblo

The House Price Index (HPI) rose from the first quarter of 2011 to the same period this year in every Colorado metro area except Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Grand Junction. The areas showing increases in the HPI included Boulder, Denver-Aurora, Greeley, and the Ft. Collins-Loveland area.

The first quarter HPI data, released last month by the Federal Housing Finance Agency for hundreds of metropolitan areas nationwide, shows continued declines in southern and western Colorado. Prices in Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Grand Junction have fallen, year over year, in each quarter since early 2011.

Statewide, with Colorado home price index was up year over year while the national index dropped. (See the analysis here.)

Year over year, the 1-year changes in each metro area were:
Boulder +2.3%
Colo Springs -1.4%
Denver-Aurora +0.3%
Fort Coll-Loveland +2.2%
Grand Junction -4.8%
Greeley +0.6%
Pueblo -2.9%

The first graph shows the year-over-year change in each region for each quarter. For the sake of visual clarity, the graph only shows data back to 2008.

Since the fourth quarter of 2008, the year-over-year changes have been generally negative. The graph also shows us that:

-Grand Junction and Pueblo have consistently shown some of the largest decreases in recent years.

-The Ft Collins-Loveland area has tended to show the smallest decreases in recent years, and together with Boulder shows some of the largest increases in recent quarters.

The second graph shows the actual HPI values for each quarter going back to 2000. In general, the HPI began to plateau during 2007 and was declining in most areas by 2008. A big exception in the Grand Junction area which continued to increase rapidly well into 2008.

Since the peak period of the first quarter of 2007, the HPI has fallen in all regions. The following shows the change in the HPI compared to the peak period, as of the first quarter of 2012.

Boulder -2.5
Colo Springs -10.6
Denver-Aurora -5.8
Fort Coll-Loveland -2.4
Grand Junction -18.8
Greeley -15.1
Pueblo -12.3

This report overall suggests that while there is a fair amount of price stability in many areas of Colorado, prices continue to fall outside the most robust areas of northern Colorado and metro Denver. When compared with Case-Shiller and local Metrolist data, we can say that through the first quarter of 2012, weakness in demand for for-purchase housing persists, but that losses in value are diminishing in each new time period. The CoreLogic index showed some small year over year increases in single-family homes. See here for more.

The index values presented and analyzed in this article are not seasonally adjusted. The data in this article is taken from the FHFA "all-transactions" data. The index is based on home price data obtained through the GSEs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

FHFA: Colorado home prices up 2.2 percent in 2012

Colorado's House Price (Expanded-Data) Index (HPI), measured by the Federal Housing and Finance Agency (FHFA), rose 2.2 percent from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012. According to the first quarter 2012 HPI, released last month by FHFA, the home price index for Colorado, in year-over-year comparisons, has risen for the first time since the end of the homebuyer tax credits, and it has risen for only the fourth time since 2007.

The Colorado HPI is now down 15.4 percent from the peak in the state's HPI which was reached during the third quarter of 2006. The national index is down 26 percent from its peak, which it also reached during the third quarter of 2006.

The HPI for the United States fell 1.2 percent from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012, and the national HPI has not shown a year-over-year increase since the first quarter of 2007.

The first graph shows the Colorado HPI compared to the US HPI since 2001. Since the peak period, the US HPI has fallen farther than the Colorado index.

In this index, the US price index can be described as slightly more "bubble-like" than the Colorado index which did not experience a run up in prices to the same degree as was the case in the national index. Although Colorado's index is higher, the index value increased much more from 2001 to the peak nationally than in Colorado. From 2001 to the third quarter of 2006, the national HPI increased 51 percent, while it only increased 23 percent in Colorado. In turn, the correction has been more severe nationally.

In the second graph is shown the year-over-year change in the HPI for both Colorado and the US. This more fully shows to what degree the HPI has fallen in recent year for both Colorado and the US. The national HPI has fallen farther than the Colorado HPI in every quarter since the second quarter of 2007.

Overall, this index suggests that, since 2007, overall home prices in Colorado have been more resilient than has been the case nationally. In Colorado, there was even a brief period of increasing prices, year over year, in late 2009 and early 2010.

The index values presented and analyzed in this article are not seasonally adjusted.

Note: During the second quarter of 2011, the Federal Housing and Finance Agency released, for the first time, its Expanded-Data House Price Index. The new index is "Estimated using Enterprise, FHA, and Real Property County Recorder Data Licensed from DataQuick[.]"

In other words, the data source is much more broad than the old index which relied only on GSE information.

However, at the metro-are level, we'll still need to rely on the older GSE-data index until FHFA expands its new index into the metro areas.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Housing News digest, June 20

Colorado Supreme Court lets foreclosure initiative advance The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that the proponents of Initiative 84, a proposed state constitutional amendment regarding foreclosure documentation, can move ahead with the amendment. In a June 14 ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the state title board’s decision that the initiative could move forward, despite challenges from two of the state’s largest banking groups.

Colorado could be facing a new wave of foreclosures Despite reports of a thawing housing market, yet another wave of foreclosures appears to be looming, real estate records filed in multiple metro-Denver counties indicate. The recording of deed-of-trust assignments in Colorado — the ownership rights of mortgages and the ability to foreclose on them — has more than doubled in the first five months of the year compared with the same period last year, The Denver Post has found.

 Boulder's boom: More than 30 building projects on tap for next 2 years Big changes are brewing in Boulder. The city is on the brink of a building boom that -- in relatively short time -- could alter the look and feel of large parts of the city. The developments that are expected to come online within the next two years are on track to add 1,500 apartments, a few hundred new hotel rooms and a large volume of new office and retail space.

 Bluff Lake Apartments dedication: Michael Hancock hails affordable housing project In April, the Colorado Division of Housing reported the state features twice as many low-income families as there is affordable rental housing for those families. This morning, at the dedication ceremony for Bluff Lake Apartments, the area's newest affordable housing community, Mayor Michael Hancock confirmed plans to change that: "My administration is more committed than ever to the expansion of affordable transitional housing," he told a crowd.

 WSJ article ranks Denver No. 2 The Denver housing market received some good news today in a front page Wall Street Journal article. An analysis of real estate data based on ZIP Codes, showed that Denver home values increases in April from the three previous months, were second only to those in Phoenix. In Denver, 90 percent of the home values rose during the three-month period ending in April, up from 6 percent a year earlier, the newspaper reported. In Zillow, almost 94 percent of the homes rose in value during that time period.

Zillow: Denver metro, Ft. Collins lead state in home price increases for May 2012

More than half of local markets appreciated or remained flat month-over-month in November according to Zillow Real Estate Market Reports

Home values in the United States were largely unchanged in May 2012, decreasing a marginal 0.9 percent from May 2011 to May 2012.  According to May's Zillow Real Estate Market Reports, the Zillow Home Value Index for the US fell from $149,500 to 148,100 year over year for May.

In Colorado's metro areas, all areas except Boulder, Ft. Collins and the Denver area showed year-over-declines from May 2011 to May 2012. Grand Junction and Pueblo showed the largest drops.

Greeley data was not included in the report.

Change from May 2011 to May 2012:
Boulder +0.7
Colo Springs -0.2
Denver metro +2.8
Ft. Collins +2.6
Grand Junct -3.5
Pueblo - 7.8

As can be seen in the graph, in recent years, home prices have shown the most stability in Boulder, Fort Collins and in Denver metro. These three areas also have the highest median estimated value, according to Zillow.

Overall, the strongest markets, in terms of home prices, are Boulder, Ft. Collins and Denver, while the weakest markets are Grand Junction and Pueblo. 

The Grand Junction area has showed the most bubble-like behavior in its run-up in prices in 2007 and 2008 before a significant decline over the past 2 years.

Zillow home value estimate for each region:

US $148,100
Boulder Metro $307,300
Colorado Springs Metro $181,700
Denver Metro $209,700
Fort Collins Metro $219,100
Grand Junction Metro $156,200
Pueblo Metro $98,900

New hires exceed layoffs for third month in US West

The number of new hires in the U.S. West, which includes Colorado, rose 4.8 percent year over year from April 2011 to April 2012, as layoffs and other separations climbed 23.1 percent during the same period.

According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover report (JOLTS), released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the West reported an increase in new hires, and the nation overall showed a 2.6 percent increase in new hires, when compared year over year. During the same period, layoffs and other separations rose 7.4 percent in the nation overall while they increased in the West region. 

In the West region, with an increase of 23.1 percent, the year-over-year change in the layoffs in April was the largest increase since January 2012, and teh second-largest increase since April 2009.  While the year-over-year increase of 4.8 percent in new hires was a small increase, it supported the slight drift upward in new hires that has been seen since early 2011. 

The first graph shows the year-over-year change in new hires and in layoffs in the U.S. West region.

In the second graph, we see the total number of new hires compared with the total number of separations, including quits, layoffs and other separations.

Note that when total hires (the blue line) are above total separations (the purple bar) then a positive net number of jobs have been added to the economy. April 2012 was the third month in a row during which new hires have exceeded separations in the West region.  So far, overall new hiring activity looks similar to 2010 and 2011. 

For the West region during April 2012, there were 61,000 more hires in the region than separations. This is significantly fewer than April 2011 when there were 127,000 more hires than separations.

According to Colorado's jobs report for April 2012, April was a productive month for job growth, although the rate of growth has moderated in recent months.

With layoffs growing more than new hires, this report suggests some weakness in the job market, although job creation does continue to take place.

Note: The JOLTS employment data is tied to the Establishment Survey which does not cover small business hiring and self-employed persons.The BLS recent made some significant revisions to employment data at year-end 2011. This analysis reflects the new revised data.

Corelogic: home price growth continues to accelerate into April 2012

Following many months of year-over-year declines in Corelogic's Home Price Index (HPI),
Colorado has now shown four months in a row of year-over-year increases with April's increase coming at 4.2 percent.  The April HPI report, released this month by Corelogic, shows the national HPI rising by 1.1 percent, year over year.

April 2012 was the fourth month since mid-2010 to show a positive year-over-year change in the HPI in Colorado, and April increase was the largest increase reported in more than three years. Annual declines have been common since 2009, although the trend in declines was interrupted briefly by the homebuyer tax credits which created some annual gains in the HPI in Colorado and nationally from late 2009 to mid-2010.

The annual increase in the HPI of4.2 percent during April is one of the larger increases shown in home price indices for Colorado and its metros put out by various organizations.  Case-Shiller, for example, reported a 2.6 percent increase for metro Denver in March (the most recent month available) while Corelogic reported an increase of 3 percent for that month.

The CoreLogic HPI shows that, nationally, home prices have fallen more than prices in Colorado and that Colorado prices are increasing at a faster rate. 

In the April report, only 7 states reported larger year-over-year increases than Colorado. The states with the largest increases were Arizona and Florida with increases of 8.8 and 5.5 percent, respectively.  The states with the largest declines in the home price index were Illinois and Delaware with drops of 6.8 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today's 2012 Mid-year construction forecast

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. presented its Mid-year construction forecast today.
 The presenting economists were: Anirban Basu, Kermit Baker and David Crowe.

Here's a quick list of observations and predictions from the presentations (which all refer to national trends):

  • Financing is still a big problem for potential construction projects.
  • Commercial construction feeds of residential construction, and residential construction has been slight, thus leading to less commercial construction.
  • Growth in commercial construction usually comes in 18 months after GDP turns around but we're not seeing that this time.
  • We're now seeing the lowest level of non-residential construction in 30 years.
  • Commercial property values have recovered more than single-family, though.
  • Forecast:  Strengthening in 2013
  • There are now signs of growth, but growth will be sluggish.
  • Recovery in construction is slow by standards of other recessions.
  • Worst year ever last year (2011) for home sales - according to one home builders index.
  • Multifmaily index does show growth, the multifamily sector is doing much better .
  • In new household formation, renter households are now becoming much more common than owner households.
  • Jobs are an issueL: nationwide, we're still 5 million jobs below December 2007 levels.
  • No industry has lost more jobs than construction
  • The consensus that we'll see slight improvement this year, and acceleration next year - this could easily be challenged because signs of confidence are sparse.
  • National construction employment has continued to deteriorate in recent months. "The trend is not positive."
  • Input prices for construction (prices in construction materials) are down due mostly to decline in oil prices and decline in demand overseas. 
  • Materials and capital are not barriers, but lack of confidence is a problem.
  • "Capital remains too scared" about future trends to begin major spending.
  • We're 4 to 5 years away from a large portion of current renters drifting into homeownership.
  • Current renters do plan to buy at some point
  • But we're looking at several years before we see a decline in the current renter trend.
  • A lot of the states that will suffer most (post election) are those states that depend the most on federal spending.

Metro unemployment: Employment falls in Colorado Springs, Pueblo

Total employment growth in Colorado in May continued to show slight growth statewide in the year-over-year comparisons. In May, total employment in Colorado was down 126,000 from the July 2008 peak. Employment trends in various regions of the state differ, however, so this article looks at which regions of the state have the highest unemployment rates, and which regions have recovered the most in their labor markets.

Regional employment trends can also provide us with some insights into local housing demand since, all things being equal, those areas with the most robust labor demand will also have the strongest demand for housing. This would be reflected in apartment vacancy rates and in median home price and home sales transactions, among other indicators.

The first graph compares unemployment rates in Colorado's metro areas.

The regional unemployment rates (not seasonally adjusted) for May 2012 are:
Colorado Springs, 9.3%
Denver-Aurora, 8.1%
Fort Collins-Loveland, 6.4%
Grand Junction, 9.0%
Greeley, 8.8%
Pueblo, 10.5%
Statewide, 8.2%

Since mid-2009, The Fort Collins-Loveland area has consistently shown one of the lowest unemployment rates while Grand Junction and Pueblo have generally shown the highest rates. during recent months,however, the unemployment rate in Grand Junction has fallen to the point where Greeley, Grand Junction, and Colorado Springs now all have similar unemployment rates near 9.0 percent.Colorado Springs now has the second-highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.3 percent.

Year over year, the unemployment rate increased in Colorado Springs and Pueblo and fell in all other metros. Total employment declined year over year in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

To provide some additional context, we can look to see how far below total employment levels are below the most recent peak in employment in each region. The peak time differs in each region. For example, the labor market peaked in mid-2007 in the Colorado Springs area, but it did not peak until late 2008 in the Grand Junction area.

The following numbers reflect how far below the most recent peak are the May 2012 employment totals:

Colorado Springs MSA, 7.1%
Denver-Aurora MSA, 4.0%
Fort Collins-Loveland MSA, 2.2%
Grand Junction MSA, 9.4%
Greeley MSA 2.2%
Pueblo MSA, 2.6%
Statewide, 4.8%

All things being equal, the areas further below the peak have recovered the least from initial job losses.

By far, Grand Junction remains the furthest below peak levels, with the Colorado Springs area also dipping more than 7 percent below the peak. We see here also that the Ft. Collins-Loveland area has one of the strongest markets, with Greeley also moving toward peak levels.

(Note: If we include the Boulder-Longmont MSA, we find that the Boulder area has consistently been among the areas with the lowest unemployment rate. In May 2012, the rate in the Boulder-Longmont area was 6.2%, although unemployment was up, year over year.)

Employment grows less than 1 percent during May

Colorado gained 21,000 jobs in May 2012 compared to May of 2011, and the non-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell year-over-year from 8.3 percent to 8.2 percent. According to the most recent employment data, collected through the Household Survey and released today by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the BLS, total employment in May, not seasonally adjusted, rose to 2.50 million jobs. The labor force also increased by 18,600 from May 2011 to May 2012.

In month-to-month comparisons, the unemployment rate rose from 8.0 percent during April 2012 to 8.2 percent during May. 21,100 jobs were added month-over-month while 29,800 people joined the work force over the same period.

From May 2011 to May 2012, total employment rose 0.7 percent while the labor force rose 0.8 percent. The total labor force in May included 2.72 million workers.

As can be seen in the second graph, total employment and total workforce size have risen, month-over-month,  after a series of ups and downs in recent months. Year over year, both employment and the labor force grew. Since employment grew more than the labor force, the unemployment rate fell. However, both remain well below July 2008 peaks.

The employment total is now 126,000 jobs below the peak levels experienced during July 2008 when there were 2.63 million employed workers. Compared to the labor force peak in July 2008, the labor force is now down by 37,900 workers.

In the third graph is shown the year-over-year comparisons, by percent, for total employment. May 2012 was the 17th month in a row showing a positive year-over-year change in total employment, although May showed the second-smallest year-over-year increase in employment of any month this year. The 17 months of increases followed 28 months in a row of negative job growth in year-over-year comparisons.

The graph also shows the year-over-change in the labor force. Total labor force size rose from May 2011 to May 2012 and follows 1 month of year-over-year decline in the labor force during April 2012. The labor force size had shrunk, year over year, for 18 months in a row from July 2009 to December 2010.

These numbers come from the Household Survey employment data, so the size of the workforce is dependent on the number of people stating that they are actively looking for work if not employed. Discouraged workers who have stopped looking for work are excluded. On the other hand, the Household Survey picks up on small business and start-up employment that may be missed by the Establishment Survey, the other commonly-used measure of employment.

Note: This analysis reflects newly revised data released in January. In most cases, total employment was revised upward for the months of 2011.