Jobs Down, Home Inventories Up, What Else Is New?

Many high hopes fell today when the US Labor Department announced dismal job gains for December. With real estate inventories continuing to rise, and expectations not being met on most economic fronts, 2011 is getting off to a rocky start. Even with a slightly lower unemployment rate last month, the mixed blessing of having “a job” is not what most people, or the economy really needs.

According to the Labor Department report, 103,000 jobs were added during December, a number far below expectations and predictions. Unemployment sinking to 9.4 percent is a positive in some respects, but the unemployed finding “any old job” is not the same as higher earners returning to gainful employment.

No jobs in sight

Not enough jobs in sight

And too, many experts suggest the jobless numbers may be the result of a smaller workforce. And just as some industries are putting on workers, even the government is still shedding them at a rate of 10,000 employees let go. When the only help is letting go of help, it does not bode well for the rest of the workforce.

And then there are the never built ones

The houses that never were built

Economist had predicted an increase of almost 40,000 more jobs than were actually added actually. With November being short too, and previous months, some experts wonder if early 2011 will be any more positive than 2010. When discouraged workers are factored into these metrics, the job situation in America is far worse than many realize in all probability. According to the reports, the US workforce is actually smaller than it was before the recession hit. Indicating many have lost hope of ever finding a job. How can the real estate industry predict anything more than “caution?”

To add salt to this wound, a report from ZipRealty clearly shows nationwide home inventories were up in December by over 11% compared to the same time last year. While ZipRealty attempted to cast a positive light on the December numbers, by headlining that December saw declines compared to November, the shadow still darkens the industry. In Las Vegas along, more than 6000 more homes were listed in December than in the year before.  The chart below from their release shows clearly the year to year increase that has stifled our industry.

Realty home listing increase chart

Listing inscreases - the tale of the tape - courtesy ZipRealty

Across the board the job numbers really tell the tale of where our economy stands. Stocks fell on the news, reducing any previous momentum to a tickle. And not many often consider the overall impact of a falling housing market. Cable companies have less customers, as does every industry where the family home leads to business beneficiaries. Even the Wall Street Journal is trying to elevate sentiment with their “declining listings” heading, but in reality inventories have never been higher. Being positive is one thing, hallucinating is another.