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Consumer Confidence

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index increased 0.4 points to 111.8 in June. The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index increased 6.8 points to 101.4 in the same period.

Housing Market

In May, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Utah, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 6.4%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.3% during the same period.

Inflation

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Price Index increased 0.6% from April to May for a trailing 12-month inflation of 0.6%. In the same period, the U.S. CPI increased 0.5% for a trailing 12-month inflation of 0.0%.

Job Report

Utah’s unemployment rate increased 0.1 point to 3.5% in May, while the national unemployment rate increased 0.1 point to 5.5% in May.

August 2015

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Randy Shumway January 2015

Utah Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

For many Utahns who want to go out on the town or experience something a little different from their normal routines, Park City is a favorite destination. With its charming resort-town feel and numerous outdoor activities, retail offerings, and cultural events, Park City has something for everyone to enjoy. The result of careful planning, Park City’s host of diverse offerings will continue to bring crucial economic development in years to come.

Park City owes much of its success to strategic and thoughtful city planning over the past three decades. The city’s website displays planning documents dating back to 1981 that show leaders’ efforts to design a community that is friendly to hordes of seasonal visitors as well as long-term residents. Careful attention to this balance continues to drive planning and development in residential and retail spaces. The population of Park City was 7,547 according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and it is expected to grow to 9,358 by 2020 and 17,722 by 2060. Summit County as a whole will have a population around 45,500 in 2020, and fast-growing Wasatch County will contribute to Park City’s success as people pass through and stay.

To maintain a historic, authentic feel, the city has focused on bringing in and nurturing mom-and-pop and locally-owned shops. City leaders keep commercial land affordable in order to draw establishments in line with their philosophy. In contrast to the overwrought celebrity culture that dominates other well-known resort towns, Park City works hard to retain its bucolic charm.

In addition to supporting residents and visitors, Park City is also set up for future economic growth. For example, facilities built specifically for the 2002 Winter Olympics are now used for events in the city, bringing millions of dollars to the local community years after the main event was in town. Every year, the Sundance Film Festival comes to town, attracting locals and visitors who pump dollars into the city’s restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues. More than a half million tourists visit Park City each year, bringing nearly a half billion dollars to Utah’s economy annually. It’s a seasonal favorite year round—skiers and snowboarders flock to the resorts in the winter, while summer visitors attend concerts and participate in outdoor events.

Park City is wise to plan for new growth as it maintains its iconic position in Utah’s economy. With ongoing strategic planning and economic development in the area, Park City will easily continue to be both a beloved get-away destination and an inviting residential town.

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Wall Street with US flags on display

Short-Term U.S. Outlook

The Commerce Department released its third and final estimate of first-quarter GDP growth in June. The results were better than previously reported: U.S. GDP contracted 0.2 percent on a seasonally-adjusted basis in the first quarter of 2015—less than the previous estimate of 0.7 percent. Much of the slowdown remains attributed to labor disputes at West Coast ports that prevented the movement of exports and imports. Imports surged in March as the labor disputes ended, increasing the trade deficit. In April, however, once ports normalized, the trade deficit shrank by $9.7 billion, which is good news for second-quarter economic growth.

A group of economists polled by MarketWatch expect U.S. GDP to grow 2.8 percent in the second quarter. Economists expect GDP growth for the year to total 3 percent, which would mark the United States’ seventh consecutive year of expansion as well as the fourth-longest economic expansion since World War II. Early indicators point to much healthier economic growth in the second quarter, which is expected given the historical idiosyncrasies of first-quarter growth. Evidence of the continued strengthening of the U.S. economy includes increases in job creation, a rebounding housing market, and continued upticks in consumer spending.

U.S. consumer spending recorded its largest increase in nearly six years in May, growing 0.9 percent more than expected. Consumers are finally spending some of the gasoline savings that they have been realizing since the beginning of the year. Related to personal consumption expenditures, personal income rose 0.5 percent in May, which was in line with expectations. While inflation has remained low, Americans’ incomes have increased, and people are spending at increased rates.

The U.S. dollar remained strong through the beginning and middle of June, although uncertainty about a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone made the euro-dollar index volatile in the days leading up to Greece’s June 30 deadline. This date was when Greece’s $1.7 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund was due. U.S. exports continued to register lower than expected by companies who see a large part of their business come from foreign markets.

Long-Term U.S. Outlook

The long-term economic outlook for the United States looks strong as job growth and low inflation free up more disposable income for many Americans. The U.S. is well positioned to benefit from increasing world trade. Trade liberalization is rising as markets open, and economic growth in rapidly-expanding Asian economies presents a major business opportunity for the United States. Every indication is that U.S. businesses will capitalize on this trend.

Emerging markets comprise an increasingly significant share of the United States’ trade transactions, and they are expected to flourish. China and Vietnam are slated to be the fastest-growing importers of U.S. goods over the long term, with a 9-percent rise in projected annual demand. China, Canada, Mexico, and Japan are expected to remain the U.S.’s top trading partners.

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US Consumer Price Index increased 0.5% Utah Consumer Price Index increased 0.6%

Utah Consumer Price Index

The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.6 percent from April to May on a nonseasonally-adjusted basis. The index has increased 0.6 percent since this same time last year. The national Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent from April to May and has remained flat at 0.0 percent over the past 12 months.

Food at home prices experienced the biggest decrease in the Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index in May with a 4.9-percent decline. Other goods and services registered next with a decline of 4.3 percent. Utilities marked the largest increase at 4.5 percent, followed by housing at 2.9 percent. All other categories changed less than 1 percent.

Utility prices have fluctuated over the past few months as summer rates have rolled out. Summer natural gas rates typically decrease starting in April. On the other hand, water and electricity rates in the summer are higher, starting in May. As a result, utility prices jumped from April to May but are expected to flatten out through the rest of the summer.

Transportation prices declined for the first time in three months as vehicle prices, rentals, maintenance, and car insurance decreased in price. Gasoline prices, which have driven the increase in the transportation price index in recent months, continued to rise in May.

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National Unemployment increased to 5.5% Utah Unemployment Rate increased to 3.5%

Labor Market

Utah’s unemployment rate in May rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.5 percent. Utah’s number of unemployed also rose during this period to 50,800. While this figure shows a slight increase in the number of unemployed in Utah, the labor force continued to grow, indicating no loss of momentum for the state economy despite the slight increase in unemployment. Of the ten private sector industry groups, nine saw positive job gains with the single exception of natural resources and mining, which contracted by an estimated 700 jobs.

Nationally, the unemployment rate followed same trajectory with unemployment rising one-tenth of a percentage point from last month to 5.5 percent. Across the country, unemployment rates rose marginally in 50 percent of the states, decreasing in only nine states, and remaining constant in 16. Despite the small uptick in unemployment, the U.S. economy added 280,000 jobs in nonfarm payroll employment during the month of May. Modest job gains were made in most sectors excluding Mining, which continued to decline. Even with the minute increase in unemployment, there are positive signs in the labor market. The number of discouraged workers—those not looking for work because they believe no work is available—fell to 563,000 in May, down by 134,000 over the last 12 months.

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Utah Consumer Attitude Index increased 0.4 points US Consumer Confidence Index increased 6.8 points

Utah Consumer Attitude Index

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index (CAI) increased 0.4 points to 111.8 in June. Sentiment about the present situation improved, while expectations for the next six months were slightly less positive. The CAI currently sits 13.6 points higher than its level twelve months ago. The national Consumer Confidence Index® (CCI) increased 6.8 points from May to June and currently sits at 101.4.

Consumer confidence in the present situation of the economy is high and currently sits at 120.9 points, which is up 2.7 points from May—a new record high. The Present Situation Index is based on consumers’ attitudes about current business conditions and job availability. Utah has some of the most business-friendly policies in the nation, so it is unsurprising that 57 percent of consumers in June rank business conditions as good —up from 55 percent last month.

Expectations for the future are slightly less optimistic than last month. The Expectations Index, the sub-index of the CAI that measures how consumers feel about economic conditions six months from now, decreased 1.2 points from May to June and currently sits at 105.8. Opinions regarding business conditions in the next six months remained relatively steady from May to June. Thirty percent of consumers expect business conditions in their areas to be good six months from now, which represents no change from May or April, although a few more people expect business conditions to worsen. Sixty-six percent of consumers expect interest rates for borrowing money to increase during the next 12 months, which is up 6 points from May. Sixty-eight percent of consumers expect prices for consumer goods to increase in the next year, which is 1 point lower than last month.

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Utah CoreLogic Home Price Index increased 6.2% National CoreLogic Home Price Index increased 6.3%

Housing Market

The housing market made marked progress toward full recovery as housing prices increased 1.5 percent in Utah and 1.7 percent nationally from April to May according to the CoreLogic Home Price Index. This represents a 6.4-percent increase compared to May 2014 for Utah and a 6.3-percent 12-month increase for home prices nationally. In Utah, home prices are only 6.5 percent below their June 2007 peak, while home prices across the country are 8.4 percent below their prerecession high.

The strong growth in housing prices in May is more than just an ordinary seasonal uptick, according to Realtor.com. The organization’s chief economist, Jonathan Smoke, who performed an analysis of the website’s traffic in May, expects site visits and home searches to rise 50 and 35 percent respectively from last May’s figures. According to Smoke, this is representative of new highs in terms of housing demand. Smoke noted that listings inventory grew an additional 4 percent over last month’s figures. However, despite inventory growth in May, listings have not quite been able to keep pace with demand, evidenced by the 7 percent year-over-year increase in prices. Median home prices are now $228,000 nationally. Even more telling is the pace at which homes are selling. The number of days on market nationally is down to 66—a sharp decline of 11 percent since May 2014.

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Statue of Liberty

Immigration: The Case For Reform

Some of the most ambitious and intelligent people in the world immigrate to the United States—particularly those who are unsatisfied with opportunities available to them in their home countries. While they come to the United States to build their new futures, these immigrants also bring tremendous value to the U.S. economy in terms of innovation and job creation. For instance, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children. Every year, immigrants file a disproportionately-large number of patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office compared to their native counterparts.

Overwhelming evidence indicates that immigrants who are most likely to be job creators and innovators are also those who qualify for merit-based visas. Many countries have designed their visa programs to capitalize on the skills of those seeking residency. For example, 62 percent of permanent-resident visas in Canada are awarded based on skill. Canada’s strong economy attracts talent from all over the world, and its visa structure allows it to keep that talent.

The United States’ visa system, however, is not currently built to maximize the global talent funnel. Most legal immigrants come to the United States on student visas. Rather than realizing the mutual benefit of merit-based visas, America loses its return on investment when these educated and driven immigrants are often compelled to leave the country to work. It’s almost a double negative: student visas award precious post-graduate admissions spots to international students and then do not allow them to stay in the country to contribute to the economy. Essentially, the current system promotes involuntary human capital flight since many foreign graduates cannot remain in the U.S.

This loss of human capital is particularly prevalent in vital STEM fields. At this point, a full 40 percent of Stanford engineering graduate degrees are earned by international students. Because of caps on U.S. merit-based visas, most of these students leave the U.S. to work. Ironically, many graduates of American universities move to Canada to work for American companies because it is too time-consuming and expensive for American companies to hire foreign graduates in their U.S. offices and sponsor visas.

The laws surrounding legal immigration are understandably contentious. Critics on both sides of the immigration aisle cite statistics regarding crime rate, quality of life, national security, national identity, and workforce competition to defend their points of view. While arguments anchored in moral and social analyses are often persuasive, the most compelling arguments consistently show up in economic terms.

In addition to increasing the numbers of educated, working citizens, a more reasonable U.S. immigration process would bring another major economic benefit: labor influx. We stand to save significant money just by matching workers with jobs that otherwise go unfilled due to lack of qualified or interested applicants. Unfilled job openings at the end of January 2015 will cost the U.S. economy an estimated $160 billion over the course of a year. By improving our immigration policies and processes, we could dramatically reduce wasted funds and invest in growth.

The United States is missing out on a great deal of talent and economic benefit due to current immigration policy limitations. By providing necessary visas and residency to immigrants through a more streamlined and merit-based process, the U.S. can ensure that individuals, organizations, and society as a whole benefit economically from immigration.

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Ski jumping hills at Utah Olympic Park

Utah Olympic Park

The Utah Olympic Park in Park City was built for the 2002 Winter Olympics and hosted competitions for bobsleigh, skeleton, Luge, Nordic Ski Jumping, and Nordic Combined Events. While the Olympics brought great press coverage and immediate economic activity to the area, the Park City area was the beneficiary of facilities that were developed to be utilized for many years to come, continuing the economic boon and notoriety of the Utah Olympic Park.

Today the Utah Olympic Park is an active, official U.S. Olympic Training Site for Olympic and development-level athletes. Fulfilling one of the missions of the Utah Olympic Legacy, this facility encourages Utah’s youth to engage in winter sports. The Utah Olympic Legacy also wants to improve the quality of youth sports and physical activity programs in Utah. Developing these programs and involving more young Utahns will encourage budding athletes to accomplish their goals and represent Utah in sporting events on every level down the road.

Maintaining and improving the Utah Olympic Park encourages current and future athletes from any state to come to Utah and refine their skills. While building Utah’s economy and legacy, these athletes inspire other Utahns to be physically active and achieve their dreams.

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Consumer Confidence

The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® increased 6.8 points to 101.4 in June. The Present Situation Index increased 4.5 points to 111.6, while the Expectations Index increased 8.4 points to 94.6.

Housing Market

In May, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Idaho, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 4.7%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.3% during the same period.

Inflation

The U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.5% from April to May. Year over year, the index remained flat at 0%, which is below the Federal Reserve’s target annual inflation pace of 2%.

Job Report

Idaho’s unemployment rate increased 0.1 point to 3.9% in May, while the national unemployment rate increased 0.1 point to 5.5% in May.

August 2015

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Randy Shumway January 2015

Idaho Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

Northern Idaho is home to the beautiful, thriving community of Coeur d’Alene. Idahoans and out-of-state visitors flock to Coeur d’Alene in all seasons of the year to enjoy its lakes, trails, and resorts. The Coeur d’Alene area is located several hours away from the state’s capital, but its economic impact on the state is significant.

Coeur d’Alene’s economy was traditionally based on natural resources—specifically, silver mining and logging. In recent decades, however, Coeur d’Alene has diversified employment to offset the shocks that can affect a natural-resource dependent economy and bring new opportunities. Major employers in the region now include Kootenai Health (1,825 employees), Coeur d’Alene Tribal Casino (1,400 employees), and Coeur d’Alene School District (1,250 employees). Supporting the area’s resorts, the local tourism industry employs more than 10,000 people in northern Idaho, and tourism accounted for 6.8 percent of the region’s overall payroll in 2010. By 2020, it is estimated that the region’s tourism industry will create an additional 1,560 jobs in amusement, gambling, and recreation.

What draws so many Idahoans and tourists to visit Coeur d’Alene? Part of the answer lies in the natural beauty of nearby lakes and resorts. Lake Coeur d’Alene, Hayden Lake, Fernan Lake, Spirit Lake, and Priest Lake attract people who enjoy water sports, fishing, and lake recreation. Nearby Schweitzer Resort, Silverwood, and Coeur d’Alene Resort provide visitors with unique lodging, dining, and entertainment. Increasing numbers of guests support Coeur d’Alene’s reputation as a resort town, bringing dollars to the state in tourism spending.

Coeur d’Alene may be small and relatively distant geographically from much of the rest of Idaho, but the economic impact of its tourism industry spreads throughout the community into the surrounding areas and the rest of the state. As a thriving resort town, Coeur d’Alene is an economic engine that attracts visitors and creates jobs for thousands of Idahoans.

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Wall Street with US flags on display

Short-term U.S. Outlook

The Commerce Department released its third and final estimate of first-quarter GDP growth in June. The results were better than previously reported: U.S. GDP contracted 0.2 percent on a seasonally-adjusted basis in the first quarter of 2015—less than the previous estimate of 0.7 percent. Much of the slowdown remains attributed to labor disputes at West Coast ports that prevented the movement of exports and imports. Imports surged in March as the labor disputes ended, increasing the trade deficit. In April, however, once ports normalized, the trade deficit shrank by $9.7 billion, which is good news for second-quarter economic growth.

A group of economists polled by MarketWatch expect U.S. GDP to grow 2.8 percent in the second quarter. Economists expect GDP growth for the year to total 3 percent, which would mark the United States’ seventh consecutive year of expansion as well as the fourth-longest economic expansion since World War II. Early indicators point to much healthier economic growth in the second quarter, which is expected given the historical idiosyncrasies of first-quarter growth. Evidence of the continued strengthening of the U.S. economy includes increases in job creation, a rebounding housing market, and continued upticks in consumer spending.

U.S. consumer spending recorded its largest increase in nearly six years in May, growing 0.9 percent more than expected. Consumers are finally spending some of the gasoline savings that they have been realizing since the beginning of the year. Related to personal consumption expenditures, personal income rose 0.5 percent in May, which was in line with expectations. While inflation has remained low, Americans’ incomes have increased, and people are spending at increased rates.

The U.S. dollar remained strong through the beginning and middle of June, although uncertainty about a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone made the euro-dollar index volatile in the days leading up to Greece’s June 30 deadline. This date was when Greece’s $1.7 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund was due. U.S. exports continued to register lower than expected by companies who see a large part of their business come from foreign markets.

Long-Term U.S. Outlook

At the end of June, Congress voted to give President Obama fast-track authority to pursue trade pacts. The first deal that can move forward under this authority is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is a trade deal uniting the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries. The trade pact would seek to lower tariffs, which would essentially level the playing field for many countries that do business with the United States. The largest gains, however, are likely to come with the elimination of “red tape” and other nontariff barriers.

Without the TPP, it is likely that China would “write” the trade and investment rules for the region, which may or may not be mutually beneficial for China’s neighbors. China is not involved in the TPP talks and is seeking its own agreement with 15 countries in the region not including the United States. America continues to advocate for greater protection of intellectual property and the elimination of rules that require internet firms to install hardware, such as servers, in countries where they wish to operate. Congress must still approve a final TPP deal, but at least with the President’s new authority to engage in fast-track talks, America is able to remain part of the discussion. Discussions like these and the ability to create more free-trade agreements in the future will positively affect the U.S. economy down the road.

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UUS Consumer Price Index increased 0.5%

U.S. Consumer Price Index

The U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.5 percent from April to May on a nonseasonally-adjusted basis and has remained even over the past twelve months. The increase in the overall index was driven primarily by a sharp rise in gasoline prices—10.4 percent. Other energy price changes were mixed. The fuel oil price index went up in May while the electricity price index went down. Natural gas prices did not change from April to May.

Food prices overall did not change in May—decreases in prices for food at home were offset by a jump in prices for food away from home. The avian flu outbreak in the Midwest has not affected poultry and egg prices across the nation as much as expected, although prices are higher in the regions that were hardest hit. Similarly, the drought in California has not had a large impact on food prices.

Several price categories increased from April to May, including shelter, airline fares, medical care, personal care, recreation, and new vehicles. On the other hand, clothing, household furnishings, and used cars and trucks all decreased in price. The flat rate of inflation signals that the U.S. economy may not be ready for interest rate hikes from the Fed yet, and no official timeline has been released.

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National Unemployment increased to 5.5% Idaho Unemployment Rate increased to 3.9%

Labor Market

Unemployment in Idaho rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.9 percent in May. This is the fifth consecutive month that unemployment has increased in the Gem State, though the state’s unemployment figures still remain well below the national average. The slight uptick in unemployment helps take some pressure off of Idaho’s tight labor market. Despite the increase in unemployment, employers continued hiring, adding more than 3,000 jobs to payroll. In addition, unemployment insurance payments and the number of those collecting unemployment benefits continued to decline. Unemployment benefit payments are down over 16 percent over the 12-month period since last May.

Nationally, the unemployment rate followed same trajectory with unemployment rising one-tenth of a percentage point from last month to 5.5 percent. Across the country, unemployment rates rose marginally in 50 percent of the states, decreasing in only nine states, and remaining constant in 16. Despite the small uptick in unemployment, the U.S. economy added 280,000 jobs in nonfarm payroll employment during the month of May. Modest job gains were made in most sectors excluding Mining, which continued to decline. Even with the minute increase in unemployment, there are positive signs in the labor market. The number of discouraged workers—those not looking for work because they believe no work is available—fell to 563,000 in May, down by 134,000 over the last 12 months.

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US Consumer Confidence Index increased 6.8 points

U.S. Consumer Confidence Index

Consumer confidence continues to rise into the summer. The National Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index increased for the second consecutive month, and the index now stands at 101.4 for June—up 6.8 points from 94.6 in May. The Present Situation Index, which measures how consumers feel about current economic conditions, increased 4.5 points to 111.6. The Expectations Index, which reflects how consumers feel about economic conditions six months from now, showed a substantial improvement—it increased to 94.6, up 8.4 points from May to June.

Consumers’ assessment of current economic conditions continues to improve, which will likely lead to increased spending in the near term. The percentage of consumers saying business conditions are good increased from 24.7 percent in May to 26.4 percent in June. Consumers also appear to be more upbeat about job prospects: the percentage of people who think jobs are plentiful increased from 20.6 percent to 21.4 percent, and the percentage of people who think jobs are hard to get declined from 27.2 percent to 25.7 percent.

Consumers believe this improved economic state will continue over the next few months. The percentage of those who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months increased from 16.0 percent to 18.5 percent, while the percentage of those expecting business conditions to worsen decreased from 11.3 percent to 9.8 percent. Consumers expect this economic improvement to lead to additional jobs, as well. Those anticipating more jobs six months from now increased from 14.7 percent to 17.8 percent, and those anticipating fewer jobs six months from now declined from 16.6 percent to 15.1 percent.

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Idaho CoreLogic Home Price Index increased 4.7% National CoreLogic Home Price Index increased 6.3%

Housing Market

The housing market made marked progress toward full recovery as housing prices increased 1.3 percent in Idaho and 1.7 percent nationally from April to May according to the CoreLogic Home Price Index. This represents a 4.7-percent increase compared to May 2014 for Idaho and a 6.3-percent 12-month increase for home prices nationally. In Idaho, home prices are 14.0 percent below their May 2007 peak while home prices across the country are 8.4 percent below their pre-recession high.

The strong growth in housing prices in May is more than just an ordinary seasonal uptick, according to Realtor.com. The organization’s chief economist, Jonathan Smoke, who performed an analysis of the website’s traffic in May, expects site visits and home searches to rise 50 and 35 percent respectively from last May’s figures. According to Smoke, this is representative of new highs in terms of housing demand. Smoke noted that listings inventory grew an additional 4 percent over last month’s figures. However, despite inventory growth in May, listings have not quite been able to keep pace with demand, evidenced by the 7 percent year-over-year increase in prices. Median home prices are now $228,000 nationally. Even more telling is the pace at which homes are selling. The number of days on market nationally is down to 66—a sharp decline of 11 percent since May 2014.

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Statue of Liberty

Immigration: The Case For Reform

Some of the most ambitious and intelligent people in the world immigrate to the United States—particularly those who are unsatisfied with opportunities available to them in their home countries. While they come to the United States to build their new futures, these immigrants also bring tremendous value to the U.S. economy in terms of innovation and job creation. For instance, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children. Every year, immigrants file a disproportionately-large number of patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office compared to their native counterparts.

Overwhelming evidence indicates that immigrants who are most likely to be job creators and innovators are also those who qualify for merit-based visas. Many countries have designed their visa programs to capitalize on the skills of those seeking residency. For example, 62 percent of permanent-resident visas in Canada are awarded based on skill. Canada’s strong economy attracts talent from all over the world, and its visa structure allows it to keep that talent.

The United States’ visa system, however, is not currently built to maximize the global talent funnel. Most legal immigrants come to the United States on student visas. Rather than realizing the mutual benefit of merit-based visas, America loses its return on investment when these educated and driven immigrants are often compelled to leave the country to work. It’s almost a double negative: student visas award precious post-graduate admissions spots to international students and then do not allow them to stay in the country to contribute to the economy. Essentially, the current system promotes involuntary human capital flight since many foreign graduates cannot remain in the U.S.

This loss of human capital is particularly prevalent in vital STEM fields. At this point, a full 40 percent of Stanford engineering graduate degrees are earned by international students. Because of caps on U.S. merit-based visas, most of these students leave the U.S. to work. Ironically, many graduates of American universities move to Canada to work for American companies because it is too time-consuming and expensive for American companies to hire foreign graduates in their U.S. offices and sponsor visas.

The laws surrounding legal immigration are understandably contentious. Critics on both sides of the immigration aisle cite statistics regarding crime rate, quality of life, national security, national identity, and workforce competition to defend their points of view. While arguments anchored in moral and social analyses are often persuasive, the most compelling arguments consistently show up in economic terms.

In addition to increasing the numbers of educated, working citizens, a more reasonable U.S. immigration process would bring another major economic benefit: labor influx. We stand to save significant money just by matching workers with jobs that otherwise go unfilled due to lack of qualified or interested applicants. Unfilled job openings at the end of January 2015 will cost the U.S. economy an estimated $160 billion over the course of a year. By improving our immigration policies and processes, we could dramatically reduce wasted funds and invest in growth.

The United States is missing out on a great deal of talent and economic benefit due to current immigration policy limitations. By providing necessary visas and residency to immigrants through a more streamlined and merit-based process, the U.S. can ensure that individuals, organizations, and society as a whole benefit economically from immigration.

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Swimmer wearing wet suit in ocean

Ironman Coeur D’Alene

With so many lakes in northern Idaho, it seems natural that the state’s open-water swimming race events draw people from all over the world.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene has been a major event in the region for the past 13 years. Ironman hopefuls compete to accomplish personal goals, beat personal records, and qualify for 1 of the 50 slots offered to compete in the World Championship Ironman competition in Kona, Hawaii. Coeur d’Alene’s vast trail network supplements the lake swim, perfectly suiting the area for such an event.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene attracts over a thousand athletes every year on the fourth Sunday in June. Last year, the race had at least 2,300 competitors representing 40 different countries. In addition to hosting these athletes, Coeur d’Alene accommodates family members and friends who come to support their triathletes. Visitors contribute to the local economy as they purchase food and hotel rooms as well as any souvenirs or other needed items. Even if the race is the main attraction, visitors come away with appreciation for Coeur d’Alene’s natural beauty and are often enticed to return year after year.

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This page was last modified on Thu Sep 03 14:30:50 MDT 2015