by Valorie Hanni Rice
Senior Specialist, Business Information

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index for January was released Tuesday, March 31. Home prices rose 4.5% over the year nationally. Phoenix metro house prices increased only 2.6% over the year in January. This was the fifth month in a row that annual prices changes for homes in Phoenix were less than 3%.

Tucson was one of 25 metropolitan areas included in the 2013 American Housing Survey. Data for these areas were released March 31 and included information on physical housing characteristics, economic factors for housing, public transportation, neighborhoods, and disaster preparedness – the last three being new topics for 2013. Tucson distinguished itself in several areas. It was among the metros with the lowest median monthly property insurance payments, with only Rochester, NY paying less; however, Tucson was among those with the highest rates of underwater mortgages, where homeowners indicate that their mortgage balance was larger than what their homes are thought to be worth. Tucson had the highest number of households with a pet (which was assessed for emergency planning purposes).

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index released on March 30 indicated an improved optimism for March, moving the index up to 101.3, compared to 98.8 in February.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits in Arizona climbed 297 the second week of March to 3,902. The four-week average was a bit higher at 3,806 compared to 3,723 the previous week. U.S. jobless claims were a seasonally adjusted 268,000 the last week of March. The national four-week moving average was 285,500.

The U.S. trade deficit was lower in February, moving down to $35.4 billion from $42.7 billion in January. Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit decreased $2.6 billion, or 3.2%, from the same period in 2014.

The March employment situation report released Friday, April 3 indicated that the U.S. added 126,000 total nonfarm payroll jobs in March. This is almost half of what was reported for February, and in fact, was the first time since February 2014 that the one-month change in employment was below 200,000. Sectors with the largest gains employment the most over the month were professional and business services, health care, and retail trade, while mining had the largest loss. The unemployment rate remained stable at 5.5% for March.

The Census Bureau is releasing 2012 Economic Census reports for states and smaller geographies on a rolling basis. The state-level report for the construction industry was released April 3. Not surprising, Arizona had fewer construction related establishments and employers in 2012 than in 2007, but looking back further, the 2012 figures were also lower than those in 2002. Specialty trade contractors (such as plumbing, electrical or finish carpentry contractors) still make up the largest share of the construction industry in Arizona.

THIS WEEK March 27, 2015

Annual inflation was flat for February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Consumer Price Index increased 0.2% between January and February on a seasonally adjusted basis. The uptick in prices came after two months of decreases due to food and energy prices, both of which turned up slightly in February.

State personal income for 2014 was released March 25. Arizona’s nominal personal income rose by 4.1% in 2014, just above the U.S. rate of 3.9%. Using population estimates from the Arizona Dept. of Administration, this gives Arizona a per capita personal income of $38,260 for 2014.

Arizona employment for February was released March 26. The state added 29,600 nonfarm jobs in February, with government accounting for over half of the monthly gain. Over the year, Arizona added 71,500 jobs, for an employment growth of 2.8%, outdoing the U.S. 12-month growth of 2.4%. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Arizona dropped to 6.5% in February, which is still a full percent higher than the national rate of 5.5%.

The Census Bureau released county and metro area population estimates for 2014 on Thursday, March 26. While no county or metro area in Arizona could be found among the fastest growing in the nation, Maricopa was among the counties with the largest numeric increase between 2013 and 2014, and in turn, Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale was in the top ten metropolitan areas for numeric change. The fastest growing county in the U.S., with an 8.7% change, was Williams, North Dakota.  The fastest growing metro area in the country was The Villages, Florida, a retirement community west of the Orlando metro area (which was also among the fastest growing).  In fact, six of the top 20 fastest growing metropolitan areas in 2014 were in Florida.

Arizona initial applications for unemployment were lower the first week of March at 3,605 compared to 3,994 the week before. The four-week average was stable at 3,723, down only 12 from the previous week. U.S. jobless claims were a seasonally adjusted 282,000 the third week of March. The national four-week moving average was a bit lower, at 297,000 after being above 300,000 the last few weeks.

Real GDP for the 4th quarter 2014 increased at an annual rate of 2.2% according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The 2014 annual increase in real GDP was 2.4%, compared to an increase of 2.2% in 2013 and 2.3% in 2012. 

Hands and calculator photo courtesy Shutterstock.

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