St. Croix Economic Development Corporation: Reminds county residents: December 2011 economic dashboard released

Contact: Bill Rubin/Jacki Bradham, St. Croix EDC, 715-381-4383

December 13, 2011 – For Immediate Release

The December edition of the St. Croix Valley Economic Dashboard has been released by the Center for Economic Research (CER) at UW-River Falls and St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC). The Dashboard is a snapshot of the economic condition of the labor, consumer and housing markets in the three county St. Croix Valley (Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties). It presents the latest available data in one convenient package (note most regional data is available with a one or two month delay). The Dashboard can be viewed on CER’s website at http://www2.uwrf.edu/cerdocs/pub/scdb/scdb.pdf.

Dr. Logan Kelly, director of the CER, conducts research for the Dashboard and offered his observations:

State and National Indicators:
“Nationally, the economy grew at a seasonally adjusted rate of two percent during the third quarter of 2011, up from the previous quarter. The unemployment rate decreased slightly in November to 8.6 percent. While the national growth rate has increased, it is short of the minimum three percent growth most economists agree is needed to see noticeable labor market recovery.”

“Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was down slightly to 7.7 percent in October, caused by a slight increase in total employment and a slight decreased in the labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of households. However, the BLS survey of employers finds that Wisconsin lost 9,700 jobs. It is not uncommon for these 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 2.93 percent, and the Philadelphia Fed’s Leading Index is predicting a negative 0.67 percent growth rate over the next year. The Coincident and Leading indices peaked in March 2011 and January 2011, respectively. If this trend of contraction continues, it may cause labor market conditions to worsen over the coming year.”

Labor Market:
“The national labor markets exhibited private sector job gains and public sector job losses. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 120,000 in November. The public sector continued its downward trend, losing 20,000 jobs in November, while the private sector performed slightly better than the previous month, gaining 140,000 jobs. The economy is still just keeping up with new entrances into the labor force. Thus, the unemployment rate changed little.”

“The Wisconsin economy lost 9,700 net jobs in October 2011, and has gained only 6,000 jobs over the last year. Job losses occurred in nearly every category, with key losses coming in high-paying job categories. The public sector lost an additional 400 jobs; manufacturing lost 3,400 jobs; and the health and education services sector lost 1,800 jobs. The sector exhibiting increases in employment were the leisure and hospitality sector, which gained 3,500 jobs; the mining and logging sector, which gained 1,000 jobs; and the information sectors, which gained 1,000 jobs. Overall, the private sector lost 9,300 jobs and the public sector lost 400 jobs.”

“The state unemployment rate decreased slightly to 7.7 percent in October, which is the same as one year previous. Conditions in the St. Croix Valley labor market are faring better than the state average. The regional unemployment rate held steady in October at 5.6 percent. The St. Croix Valley’s unemployment rate is lower than the state average and comparable to the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. Signs seem to point that the Minnesota economy is faring better than its Wisconsin neighbors. The close proximity of the St. Croix Valley to Minnesota is probably connected to the 3-county region having a better economic outlook than the majority of the state.”

Housing:
“The Case-Shiller Home Price index for Minneapolis, Chicago and nationally all decreased for the month of September. The median home price and number of homes sold in the St. Croix Valley both decreased for the month of November. The number of homes sold was 3.7 percent higher than one year ago. The housing market looks to continue its late fall and winter slumber as the weather gets colder.”

“County sales tax distributions are a less than reliable benchmark,” said William Rubin, executive director of St. Croix EDC. “However, the January through November distributions to St. Croix County in 2011 are almost 5.0 percent below the distributions for the same time period in 2010 ($4.644 million versus $4.884 million). This suggests less confidence from consumers, who may be willing to purchase taxable items unless they are deemed must-have. Sales tax distributions to the St. Croix Valley topped $750,000 in October 2011, but this is down 11.2% from one year ago and 12.2 percent from September 2011. New vehicle registrations in the 3-county region declined from September to October by 10.8 percent, but are up almost 32 percent from October 2010.”

Notes:
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 a population of 3.25 million residents.

For additional information on the December edition of the St. Croix Valley Economic Dashboard, contact Dr. Logan Kelly at [email protected] or (715) 425-4993 or William Rubin at [email protected] or (715) 381-4383.

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