Important Details
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Consumer Confidence

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index increased 1.8 points to 113.2 in September. The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index increased 2.3 points to 104.1 in the same period.

Housing Market

In August, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Utah, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 7.7%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.2% during the same period.

Inflation

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Price Index remained unchanged from July to August for a trailing 12-month inflation of 1.3%. In the same period, the U.S. CPI increased 0.1% for a trailing 12-month inflation of 1.1%.

Job Report

Utah’s unemployment rate decreased 0.2 percentage point to 3.7% in August, and the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9%.

November 2016

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The latest employment, housing and other trends

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Randy Shumway January 2015

Utah Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

“While many of us think of commerce during Thanksgiving season in terms of shoppers standing in long lines on Black Friday to take advantage of holiday promotions, we shouldn’t overlook the impact of the farmers market season, which also has an important impact on Utah’s economy.”

November marks the end of harvest season, which culminates in the traditional celebration of Thanksgiving. Amid the sugary pies, turkey bowl games, and festive parades, Thanksgiving remains a celebration of the year’s bountiful harvest, family, and friendships. While many of us think of commerce during Thanksgiving season in terms of shoppers standing in long lines on Black Friday to take advantage of holiday promotions, we shouldn’t overlook the impact of the farmers market season, which also has an important impact on Utah’s economy.

From early May through late October, Utah communities come together to support 35 different farmers markets. According to Utah’s Own, an organization that promotes Utah products and companies, most of these markets are seasonal, but some operate year round in permanent facilities. Others are supplemented by winter markets in the off season. Farmers markets are ideal venues in which farmers and craftsmen can sell their produce, meat, dairy, and homemade items. Many agricultural items need to be sold and enjoyed while they are fresh, and farmers markets allow vendors to sell their items within days or hours of harvest.

Farmers markets are increasingly adopting programs that benefit low-income customers. For example, the Salt Lake City Downtown Farmers Market runs a Double Up Food Bucks program in partnership with Utahns Against Hunger. It accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payments wherein participants use tokens to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables and any approved food items, like bread, meat, spreads, and dairy products. These farmers market programs provide access to affordable, healthy food for low-income Utahns. As residents purchase items at farmers’ markets, more money flows into the local economy, and more fruits and vegetables make their way to the dinner table.

While farmers markets throughout the state differ in their offerings, size, and economic impact, each one contributes to the overall dynamic and health—both financial and physical—of its community. Customers flock to farmers markets to buy locally-grown, fresh produce, and the transactions benefit all parties. Some farmers and local craftsmen in Utah earn the majority of their revenue from these markets. As you look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving later this month, you might consider including items from your local farmers market.

Read more Read more
Produce displayed at an outdoor market

SHORT-TERM OUTLOOK

Registering an uptick from the previous estimate, the third and final estimate of second-quarter U.S. GDP growth increased from an annualized 1.1-percent to 1.4-percent growth rate. The major difference between the second and third estimates was an increase in nonresidential fixed investment, or spending on plants and equipment; in the second estimate, nonresidential fixed investment had decreased. Other increases in the second quarter included personal consumption expenditures and exports. Based on preliminary data, some economists estimate that third-quarter growth could reach 3 percent, which would be a much-needed increase from 1.1-percent growth during the first half of the year.

Notwithstanding the more positive numbers, in the week that followed the release of the GDP growth estimate, the International Monetary Fund downgraded its forecast for U.S. economic growth from 2.2 percent to 1.6 percent. The forecast for the global economy remained unchanged at 3.1 percent. Although developed economies have grown more slowly than historic rates (the U.S. economy included), developing and emerging nations have grown more quickly than expected.

Despite talk all year that the Fed would gradually increase interest rates, the Federal Open Market Committee did not vote to raise interest rates in September. However, several policy makers dissented from the overall decision, favoring a quarter-percent interest rate hike. Pressure to raise rates has grown throughout the year as labor market and housing market numbers have registered increases, indicating that the economy is getting stronger. Economists have been hesitant to raise rates, however, because other economic indicators have not exhibited strong growth. It remains possible that the Fed will raise rates either in November or December, making good on their December 2015 statement that rates would climb in 2016.

After two and a half years of an oil glut, OPEC finally agreed to scale back oil production during an informal meeting in September. Details will be determined at their formal meeting in November. The extent of the effect of OPEC’s oil production cut back is uncertain at this point because there are more oil-producing countries contributing to the market now than there were the last time OPEC cut production, lessening its impact on overall oil prices. After the decision was announced, however, oil prices rose. It is possible that the cut in production will raise prices sufficiently to encourage more investment in oil in the United States, thus boosting the engineering and manufacturing industries.

LONG-TERM OUTLOOK

The current unpopularity of trade deals, both in the United States and globally, has the potential to affect the long-term U.S. economic outlook by preventing future trade deals and agreements designed to increase Americans’ access to goods from around the world. Although caution is always wise, trade liberalization leads to a benefit averaging 43 cents per person per month in America—it may not sound like much initially, but this number adds up quickly.

In late September, the World Trade Organization (WTO) forecast for the first time in fifteen years that global trade growth would not keep pace this year with global GDP. There are many trade partnerships in place throughout the world, but recent agreements are facing some hurdles. In particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed in February, has seen recent opposition.

In a world where consumers will pay for authentic Colombian coffee and Swiss Gruyere cheese, trade partnerships have made foreign items more accessible. Trade partnerships prevent national governments from imposing high tariffs that increase the prices of foreign goods. The arguments against free trade claim that free trade hurts American companies, particularly manufacturing. Opponents of free trade feel that because items manufactured outside the United States can often be produced more cheaply, trade gives companies greater incentive to outsource or move operations off shore.

Read more Read more
Utah Consumer Price Index is unchanged US Consumer Price Index increased 0.1%

Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index

The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI) remained unchanged from July to August on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. The index has grown 1.3 percent since this same time last year, which is below the Federal Reserve’s national inflation target of 2 percent. The national Consumer Price Index increased 0.1 percent from July to August and has grown 1.1 percent over the last year.

Transportation prices decreased more than any other sector’s prices in August, falling 2.3 percent as costs for gasoline and rates for vehicle rentals and airfare declined. Since this time last year, transportation prices have declined 3.2 percent in Utah and 4.9 percent in the U.S. These decreases took place in spite of the fact that the price of Brent Crude Oil, the international benchmark for oil prices, remained fairly steady in the month of August.

Clothing prices increased more than any other sector, rising 2.0 percent from July to August as prices for women’s and men’s apparel more than offset lower prices for children’s clothes. Medical care prices also saw strong gains, increasing 1.9 percent in August as costs for prescription drugs rose. Utah has remained relatively insulated from rising medical care prices, which are up 4.0 percent nationally but up only 0.1 percent in Utah since this time last year.

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National Unemployment rate stays at 4.9% Utah Unemployment rate decreased to 3.7%

Labor Market

The unemployment rate in Utah decreased two-tenths of a percent—from 3.9 percent in July to 3.7 percent in August. The state’s year-over-year growth in total employment increased from 3.2 percent in July to 3.3 percent in August. Compared to a year ago, Utah has added 44,800 jobs to the economy, and the current employment level registers at 1,420,900. The United States’ unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent.

Eight of ten sectors measured posted net job increases this month, while the natural resources and mining industry decreased by 1,000 positions and the information industry posted no net change. The largest private sector employment increases occurred in Trade, Transportation and Utilities; Education and Health Services; and Financial Activities.

Though the natural resources and mining industry has declined in part due to low oil and gas prices, a recent land use decision may boost employment in the sector. The decision will allow the development of up to 5,750 new oil and gas wells, plus roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure. Among other compromises to ensure minimal impact on the environment, a directional drilling technique will be employed to minimize surface disturbance and other effects on surrounding habitat. Close cooperation among several agencies including the EPA, BLM, Newfield Exploration Company, State of Utah, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife made the decision possible. This will allow growth in energy jobs in Utah while responsibly furthering environmental sustainability.

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Utah Consumer Attitude Index rose 1.8 points US Consumer Confidence Index rose 2.3 points

Utah Consumer Attitude Index

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index (CAI) increased 1.8 points to 113.2 in September, indicating greater confidence in both the current economy and the future economic situation. In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index® increased 2.3 points from August to September and currently sits at 104.1.

The Present Situation Index, the sub-index of the CAI that measures how consumers feel about current economic conditions, increased 1.5 points since last month and is 8.0 points higher than it was at this time last year. Utahns believe the general business environment continues to be favorable, with 58 percent rating business conditions in their area as good—a 1-percent increase from last month.

Expectations for the next six months decreased 2.1 points in August. Forty-one percent of Utahns believe the U.S. economy is unlikely to improve during the next 12 months, a 9-percent increase since last month. The outlook for the labor market has held steady. Satisfaction with the steps taken by the federal government to improve the overall economy of the U.S. decreased slightly, with 51 percent of Utahns indicating belief that the federal government is doing a poor job, compared to 45 percent last month.

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Utah CoreLogic Home Price Index is up 7.7% National CoreLogic Home Price Index increased 5.4%

Housing Market

Home prices rose slightly both across the nation and in Utah in August. Utah’s home prices increased 0.6 percent from July to August, and have grown 7.7 percent since August 2015. In Utah, home prices are forecasted to increase 0.5 percent this month and 5.2 percent in the next year. Nationally, home prices increased 1.1 percent month over month and 6.2 percent year over year. National home prices for single-family homes, including distressed sales, are forecasted to rise by 0.4 percent in September 2016, and by 5.3 percent from August 2016 to August 2017.

Although home prices remain 5.6 percent below peak values recorded in April 2006, the U.S. has experienced 55 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, including distressed sales, indicating progress toward a full recovery. A new peak level in home prices is expected to be reached nationally in October 2017. In Utah, however, a new peak level in home prices was reached this month. This new peak has raised concerns of a housing bubble. However, while home prices may dip slightly in the future as interest rates rise, Utah’s strong economic fundamentals and quickly-growing job market suggest that the state’s rising housing prices are likely sustainable.

Read more Read more
Hand dropping coins into cup held by homeless man

Sustainable and Effective Assistance for Our Homeless Population

Recently, my 13-year-old son and I spent an afternoon visiting with a gathering of people who are homeless. Most with whom we spoke expressed simple needs—a meal, a warm bed, and perhaps a fresh opportunity. Sadly, we also observed multiple drug deals over the course of a few short hours and witnessed several individuals inject their arms with heroin in the broad light of day.

Surprised by this brazen behavior in the presence of two conspicuous outsiders, my heart sank at the challenges that many who are homeless encounter. More often than not, these individuals have faced unfathomable challenges in life. Many have no family support. Many desperately need help for mental, physical, or substance abuse concerns. Some have made mistakes in life that inhibit their ability to find quality employment.

Unless we make significant changes to the way we administer services, we will fall short of helping those who most need society’s love and assistance, and homelessness in our largest urban communities will worsen. The help we currently provide—although motivated by pure intentions—often fails to fully address the core problems that cause homelessness. One reason for this is that in our effort to serve more individuals, we place disproportionate emphasis on measuring activities. We track the number of short-term beds provided and filled. We count how many trays of food we serve. We measure how many individuals receive drug counseling, job coaching, dental care, and haircuts. While we count the number of people we are serving and the activities completed, we miss the more difficult-to-measure outcomes—the degree to which behaviors and lives are being changed.

One result of this approach is that we consolidate services in one centralized location to more efficiently and inexpensively complete the measured activities. Unfortunately, by serving all patrons in one concentrated location, we actually exacerbate some of the root challenges we’re trying to solve.

One change that can have a meaningful impact is to construct small, dispersed facilities to serve the needs of unique sub-populations of homeless people. Decentralization will address three core issues that perpetuate homelessness within the current system: influence, psychology, and safety.

When the disadvantaged are consolidated in one location, it becomes significantly easier for those with bad intentions to prey on them. For many, homelessness is merely a symptom of mental illness and/or substance abuse. If they are surrounded by unfettered crime and drug access in their effort to obtain a meal, bed, or career counseling, the environment increases the likelihood that they will relapse—and subsequently remain homeless. Decentralizing will limit the formation of large, difficult to monitor groups wherein individuals with dangerous propensities mingle without obstruction.

Building dispersed facilities will also mitigate psychological challenges: surrounded by ubiquitous helplessness at such a scale, many homeless individuals, not surprisingly, succumb to the feelings of despair that pervade the population. Human nature often rises or falls to the level of its surroundings. By decentralizing physical facilities, we will limit homeless individuals’ identification with a broader homeless community as a way of life. Instead, those in need will interact more with the general community and will have increased propensity to emulate norms of employment, self-care, supportive families, and so on.

Finally, decentralizing locations will improve safety for the homeless. At present, people in dangerous situations are often faced with the choice of either remaining with an abuser they know, or placing themselves and their children into a situation where they may encounter potential abusers they don’t know. While my son and I were visiting the center several weeks ago, I watched a school bus pull up to the corner and drop off a throng of children. After having just witnessed drug use and commerce at that precise corner, I wanted to run over, protectively gather all the children, and find them a safer place. Simply put, consolidated services put many homeless people in harm’s way.

Smaller, focused facilities dispersed throughout the community need to be built. Each can be dedicated toward unique sub-populations such as single mothers, vets, and the mentally ill. Admittedly, it will require investment to build the facilities. It will also cost more for counselors, physicians, and workforce advisors to travel to each location to provide support. And transporting fresh meals to different locations will require more resources. But the long-term benefits will far outweigh the costs.

The solutions to homelessness are not simple, but decentralization is a crucial step. Disseminated, smaller facilities will make it harder for dangerous people to exert influence. In addition, these facilities will better empower currently-homeless people to identify with the community at-large, and will reduce exposure to danger and menace. Ultimately, decentralization will shift the focus away from merely fulfilling easily-measurable activities toward truly changing lives.

Read more Read more
Hand holding an empty plastic water bottle

It’s About More Than Just the Offerings

Originally established to bring positive economic activity to the Pioneer Park area, Salt Lake City’s Downtown Farmers Market has flourished over the past 24 years. It now hosts vendors who represent more than 100 farms from at least 16 counties, boosting revenue from agriculture around the Salt Lake area. Often, successful vendors transition from market stall to permanent retail locations—in fact, several of Utah’s iconic food businesses had their roots in the Market.

This year, the Downtown Farmers Market has taken a stronger stand to promote environmental sustainability by prohibiting the sale of plastic bottles. In order to encourage recycling and proper disposal of glass, landfill materials, and compost, the Market provides five different waste stations with four different types of waste containers. In addition, the Market encourages customers to applaud vendors’ green initiatives to cut down on plastic waste, such as recycling fruit containers and not automatically bagging purchases.

Environmental responsibility is just one great cause outside of the normal operations of the market, but its success highlights the value that farmers markets bring to our communities. By facilitating local economic activity and healthy eating, the Downtown Farmers Market continues to expand its mission to support sustainable, regional agriculture; build community gathering places; increase access to nutritious, local food in urban areas; and educate consumers about shopping local.

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Consumer Confidence

The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® increased 2.3 points to 104.1 in September. The Present Situation Index increased 3.2 points to 128.5, and the Expectations Index increased 1.7 points to 87.8.

Housing Market

In August, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Idaho, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 7.4%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.2% during the same period.

Inflation

The U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.1% from July to August. Year over year, the index increased 1.1%, which is below the Federal Reserve’s target annual inflation pace of 2%.

Job Report

Idaho’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.8% in August, and the national unemployment rate also remained unchanged at 4.9% in August.

November 2016

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Subscribe to The Current



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The latest employment, housing and other trends

See the Economic Snapshot

Randy Shumway January 2015

Idaho Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

“While farmers markets throughout the state differ in their offerings, size, and economic impact, each one contributes to the overall dynamic and health—both financial and physical—of its community.”

November marks the end of harvest season, which culminates in the traditional celebration of Thanksgiving. Amid the sugary pies, turkey bowl games, and festive parades, Thanksgiving remains a celebration of the year’s bountiful harvest, family, and friendships. While many of us think of commerce during Thanksgiving season in terms of shoppers standing in long lines on Black Friday to take advantage of holiday promotions, we shouldn’t overlook the impact of the farmers market season, which also has an important impact on Idaho’s economy. According to the Idaho Farmers Market Association, farmers markets brought in over $4.2 million dollars in annual sales across the state in 2015.

From early April through late October (and even December for some markets), Idaho hosts more than 40 farmers markets statewide, which bring communities together. Such markets are an ideal venue for the nearly 1,700 vendors who sell their produce, meat, dairy, and homemade items at these markets. In the agricultural industry, where many items need to be sold and bought fresh, farmers markets allow vendors to sell their items within days or hours of harvest.

In order to provide opportunities and benefits for low-income customers, approximately 75 percent of Idaho farmers markets accept food stamp programs. Thirteen farmers markets in the state participate in the Double Up Food Bucks program, which incentivizes low-income Idahoans to purchase more fruits and vegetables. For every food stamp benefit a participant redeems at participating farmers market, he or she will receive an additional token to spend on fruits and vegetables. The program is a triple-win: federal food dollars stay in the local economy, local farmers experience an increase in income, and Idahoans gain access to healthy fruits and vegetables. In this way, farmers markets connect Idaho vendors with residents of all income levels to promote a healthier state.

In fact, Idaho is a growing leader in incentivizing healthy food choices. For instance, the City of Boise was one of the first local governments in the United States to allocate budgetary dollars toward healthy food incentivizing at farmers markets. “The Double Up Food Bucks program ensures that Idahoans of all income levels are able to shop at farmers markets where they can learn from farmers, purchase more fruits and vegetables, and interact with their communities,” says Denise Dixon of the Homedale Farmers Market, a program participant since 2015. The Idaho Farmers Market Association is preparing to applying to a USDA grant that would support a statewide program and looks forward to partnering with other sectors who are interested in strengthening this program.

While farmers markets throughout the state differ in their offerings, size, and economic impact, each one contributes to the overall dynamic and health—both financial and physical—of its community. Customers flock to farmers markets to buy locally-grown, fresh produce, and the transactions benefit all parties. Some farmers and local craftsmen in Idaho earn the majority of their revenue from these markets. As you look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving later this month, you might consider including items from your local farmers market.

Read more Read more
Produce displayed at an outdoor market

Short-term U.S. Outlook

Registering an uptick from the previous estimate, the third and final estimate of second-quarter U.S. GDP growth increased from an annualized 1.1-percent to 1.4-percent growth rate. The major difference between the second and third estimates was an increase in nonresidential fixed investment, or spending on plants and equipment; in the second estimate, nonresidential fixed investment had decreased. Other increases in the second quarter included personal consumption expenditures and exports. Based on preliminary data, some economists estimate that third-quarter growth could reach 3 percent, which would be a much-needed increase from 1.1-percent growth during the first half of the year.

Notwithstanding the more positive numbers, in the week that followed the release of the GDP growth estimate, the International Monetary Fund downgraded its forecast for U.S. economic growth from 2.2 percent to 1.6 percent. The forecast for the global economy remained unchanged at 3.1 percent. Although developed economies have grown more slowly than historic rates (the U.S. economy included), developing and emerging nations have grown more quickly than expected.

Despite talk all year that the Fed would gradually increase interest rates, the Federal Open Market Committee did not vote to raise interest rates in September. However, several policy makers dissented from the overall decision, favoring a quarter-percent interest rate hike. Pressure to raise rates has grown throughout the year as labor market and housing market numbers have registered increases, indicating that the economy is getting stronger. Economists have been hesitant to raise rates, however, because other economic indicators have not exhibited strong growth. It remains possible that the Fed will raise rates either in November or December, making good on their December 2015 statement that rates would climb in 2016.

After two and a half years of an oil glut, OPEC finally agreed to scale back oil production during an informal meeting in September. Details will be determined at their formal meeting in November. The extent of the effect of OPEC’s oil production cut back is uncertain at this point because there are more oil-producing countries contributing to the market now than there were the last time OPEC cut production, lessening its impact on overall oil prices. After the decision was announced, however, oil prices rose. It is possible that the cut in production will raise prices sufficiently to encourage more investment in oil in the United States, thus boosting the engineering and manufacturing industries.

Long-Term U.S. Outlook

The current unpopularity of trade deals, both in the United States and globally, has the potential to affect the long-term U.S. economic outlook by preventing future trade deals and agreements designed to increase Americans’ access to goods from around the world. Although caution is always wise, trade liberalization leads to a benefit averaging 43 cents per person per month in America—it may not sound like much initially, but this number adds up quickly.

In late September, the World Trade Organization (WTO) forecast for the first time in fifteen years that global trade growth would not keep pace this year with global GDP. There are many trade partnerships in place throughout the world, but recent agreements are facing some hurdles. In particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed in February, has seen recent opposition.

In a world where consumers will pay for authentic Colombian coffee and Swiss Gruyere cheese, trade partnerships have made foreign items more accessible. Trade partnerships prevent national governments from imposing high tariffs that increase the prices of foreign goods. The arguments against free trade claim that free trade hurts American companies, particularly manufacturing. Opponents of free trade feel that because items manufactured outside the United States can often be produced more cheaply, trade gives companies greater incentive to outsource or move operations off shore.

Read more Read more
US Consumer Price Index increased 0.1%

U.S. Consumer Price Index

The U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.1 percent from July to August on a non-seasonally adjusted basis and has grown 1.1 percent over the past year. The increase stemmed from an overall rise in the index for all items less food and energy, which is considered a less volatile and more accurate measure of inflation. Shelter and medical care prices contributed to the increase.

The energy and food indexes both remained unchanged from July to August, as sub-indexes registered mixed price fluctuations. Natural gas and electricity indexes increased in price while gasoline and fuel oil indexes decreased in price. Food at home prices declined for the fourth month in a row, while food away from home increased in price.

The recent growth in the index for all items less food and energy was the largest increase since February of this year, which is a positive sign as the Federal Open Market Committee contemplates raising interest rates prior to the end of this year. While inflation is still not approaching the Federal Reserve’s 2-percent target, even a small increase in prices suggests a strengthening economy.

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National Unemployment rate stays at 4.9% Unemployment rate in Idaho stays at 3.8%

Labor Market

Idaho’s unemployment rate held steady at 3.8 percent in August. Idaho’s nonfarm payrolls remained fairly stable this month, adding 100 jobs. The strongest gains occurred in construction, financial activities, other services, and information. The state’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment has grown 3.3 percent since last year. Compared to a year ago, Idaho has added 22,000 jobs to the economy, with the current employment level registering at 781,400. The United States’ unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent.

With strong job growth, sustained demand for workers, and a growing number of Idahoans looking for work, Idaho is the number one state in the nation for year-over-year job growth this month—and it has been for six additional months this year. The Idaho Department of Labor recently published projections for Idaho’s labor market: employment is expected to grow in all categories except mining, in which only minor losses are expected. Broad employment growth suggests economic health that is both sustainable and shared by a wide variety of Idaho careers.

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US Consumer Confidence Index rose 2.3 points

U.S. Consumer Confidence Index

The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® (CCI) increased 2.3 points to 104.1 in September. The Present Situation Index, the sub-index of the CCI that measures how consumers feel about current economic conditions, increased 3.2 points to 128.5, and the Expectations Index improved 1.7 points to 87.8.

Increased confidence in the current situation stemmed largely from improved perceptions of the labor market. Consumers are optimistic that the short-term labor market is improving, although their opinions about current business conditions are neutral. Consumers also don’t have strong opinions about whether or not their income will increase over the coming months.

The positive outlook for the next six months also derived from a positive outlook on the labor market. The percentage of consumers who expect more jobs to be available in the next six months increased from 14.4 percent to 15.1 percent in September. On a similar note, the proportion who expect fewer jobs dropped from 17.5 percent to 17 percent. A lower percentage of consumers expect their incomes to increase over the next six months—down from 18.5 percent to 17.1 percent—but fewer people also expect their incomes to decrease.

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Idaho CoreLogic Home Price Index is up 7.4% National CoreLogic Home Price Index is up 6.2%

Housing Market

Home prices continued to rise slightly across the nation and in Idaho in August. Idaho’s home prices increased 0.9 percent from July to August, and have risen 7.4 percent since August 2015. Nationally, home prices increased 1.1 percent month over month and 6.2 percent year over year. National home prices for single-family homes, including distressed sales, are forecasted to rise by 0.4 percent in September 2016, and by 5.3 percent from August 2016 to August 2017.

Although home prices remain 5.6 percent below peak values recorded in April 2006, the U.S. has experienced 55 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, including distressed sales, indicating progress toward a full recovery. A new peak level in home prices is expected to be reached in October 2017. In Idaho, home prices are forecasted to increase 0.4 percent this month and 5.7 percent in the next year. Prices are bolstered by Idaho’s strong regional economy, and relatively-low mortgage rates. Inventories are low, and homes are selling quickly—in the third quarter this year, the average sold home was on the market for 44 days, compared to 59 days for all of 2016. Prices may dip slightly in the future as interest rates rise, but the strong fundamentals of Idaho’s housing market suggest that rising prices are sustainable in the long term.

Read more Read more
Hand dropping coins into cup held by homeless man

Sustainable and Effective Assistance for our Homeless Population

Recently, my 13-year-old son and I spent an afternoon visiting with a gathering of people who are homeless. Most with whom we spoke expressed simple needs—a meal, a warm bed, and perhaps a fresh opportunity. Sadly, we also observed multiple drug deals over the course of a few short hours and witnessed several individuals inject their arms with heroin in the broad light of day.

Surprised by this brazen behavior in the presence of two conspicuous outsiders, my heart sank at the challenges that many who are homeless encounter. More often than not, these individuals have faced unfathomable challenges in life. Many have no family support. Many desperately need help for mental, physical, or substance abuse concerns. Some have made mistakes in life that inhibit their ability to find quality employment.

Unless we make significant changes to the way we administer services, we will fall short of helping those who most need society’s love and assistance, and homelessness in our largest urban communities will worsen. The help we currently provide—although motivated by pure intentions—often fails to fully address the core problems that cause homelessness. One reason for this is that in our effort to serve more individuals, we place disproportionate emphasis on measuring activities. We track the number of short-term beds provided and filled. We count how many trays of food we serve. We measure how many individuals receive drug counseling, job coaching, dental care, and haircuts. While we count the number of people we are serving and the activities completed, we miss the more difficult-to-measure outcomes—the degree to which behaviors and lives are being changed.

One result of this approach is that we consolidate services in one centralized location to more efficiently and inexpensively complete the measured activities. Unfortunately, by serving all patrons in one concentrated location, we actually exacerbate some of the root challenges we’re trying to solve.

One change that can have a meaningful impact is to construct small, dispersed facilities to serve the needs of unique sub-populations of homeless people. Decentralization will address three core issues that perpetuate homelessness within the current system: influence, psychology, and safety.

When the disadvantaged are consolidated in one location, it becomes significantly easier for those with bad intentions to prey on them. For many, homelessness is merely a symptom of mental illness and/or substance abuse. If they are surrounded by unfettered crime and drug access in their effort to obtain a meal, bed, or career counseling, the environment increases the likelihood that they will relapse—and subsequently remain homeless. Decentralizing will limit the formation of large, difficult to monitor groups wherein individuals with dangerous propensities mingle without obstruction.

Building dispersed facilities will also mitigate psychological challenges: surrounded by ubiquitous helplessness at such a scale, many homeless individuals, not surprisingly, succumb to the feelings of despair that pervade the population. Human nature often rises or falls to the level of its surroundings. By decentralizing physical facilities, we will limit homeless individuals’ identification with a broader homeless community as a way of life. Instead, those in need will interact more with the general community and will have increased propensity to emulate norms of employment, self-care, supportive families, and so on.

Finally, decentralizing locations will improve safety for the homeless. At present, people in dangerous situations are often faced with the choice of either remaining with an abuser they know, or placing themselves and their children into a situation where they may encounter potential abusers they don’t know. While my son and I were visiting the center several weeks ago, I watched a school bus pull up to the corner and drop off a throng of children. After having just witnessed drug use and commerce at that precise corner, I wanted to run over, protectively gather all the children, and find them a safer place. Simply put, consolidated services put many homeless people in harm’s way.

Smaller, focused facilities dispersed throughout the community need to be built. Each can be dedicated toward unique sub-populations such as single mothers, vets, and the mentally ill. Admittedly, it will require investment to build the facilities. It will also cost more for counselors, physicians, and workforce advisors to travel to each location to provide support. And transporting fresh meals to different locations will require more resources. But the long-term benefits will far outweigh the costs.

The solutions to homelessness are not simple, but decentralization is a crucial step. Disseminated, smaller facilities will make it harder for dangerous people to exert influence. In addition, these facilities will better empower currently-homeless people to identify with the community at-large, and will reduce exposure to danger and menace. Ultimately, decentralization will shift the focus away from merely fulfilling easily-measurable activities toward truly changing lives.

Read more Read more
Woman shopping for produce at farmers market

Setting the Trend for Idaho Farmers Markets

Farmers markets occupy a unique niche in Idaho’s economy: by connecting local farmers with local consumers, they reward the state’s agricultural vendors and enhance the nutritional health of the community. Established in 1977, the Moscow Farmers Market is the longest-running farmers market in Idaho. It has been ranked the number one market in the state of Idaho by American Farmland Trust for six years in a row. Economic impacts of the market include increasing employment from 94 local jobs to 128 jobs. Throughout its long history, the Moscow Farmers Market has been a pioneer in bringing fresh, local food to as many members of the community as possible.

To enable lower-income community residents to access affordable, healthy food, the Moscow Farmers Market became the first market in the state to accept food stamps, WIC, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) checks. Although SFMNP checks are part of a Washington state program, Moscow is right on the state border, and its farmers market accepts these checks to support an expanded community.

While many markets depend on volunteers to operate, the Moscow Farmers Market is so large that it has several staff members dedicated to marketing and operations logistics. The city also created a strategic plan for 2012 and 2013 to ensure that the Market can operate and expand in a way that best serves the community. Moscow Farmers Market is just one of 45 such markets in the state, but its size and history set it apart as a trend setter and expert in the farmers market world.

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This page was last modified on Thu Dec 01 10:11:20 MST 2016