Important Details
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Consumer Confidence

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index decreased 4.8 points to 104.2 in May. The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index decreased 2.1 points to 92.6 in the same period.

Housing Market

In April, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Utah, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 8.0%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.2% during the same period.

Inflation

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Price Index increased 1.1% from March to April for a trailing 12-month inflation of 2.1%. In the same period, the U.S. CPI increased 0.5% for a trailing 12-month inflation of 1.1%.

Job Report

Utah’s unemployment rate increased 0.2 percentage point to 3.7% in April, and the national unemployment rate decreased 0.3 percentage point to 4.7%.

July 2016

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The latest employment, housing and other trends

See the Economic Snapshot

Randy Shumway January 2015

Utah Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

Utah has a thriving economy that continues to grow at a relatively steady pace despite the ongoing economic challenges confronting much of the rest of the world. But what would happen if Utah experienced disaster on the home front? Is our economy and infrastructure strong enough to handle external shocks to our system?

With the recent flooding in Texas, earthquakes in Australia, and onslaught of the ZIKA virus in South America, we are reminded that disaster can strike in myriad places and ways. In particular, Utah is at risk for economic disruption due to the threat of several different types of natural disasters: earthquakes, wildfires, floods, storms, etc. Fortunately, Utah has a specific emergency preparedness campaign managed by the Division of Homeland Security, Be Ready Utah, dedicated to helping residents and municipalities prepare for disaster.

Due to its capacity to destroy buildings, roads, infrastructure, and access to utilities, a large earthquake in Utah would create a very high degree of physical disruption to personal and business life. The most recent major earthquake along the Wasatch fault line occurred 350 years ago, and the fault is expected to slip again in the next 50 years. Federal loss-estimation software operated by the Utah Division of Emergency Management estimates that if a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Salt Lake County, approximately 86,000 people would lose their homes, and the region’s main water distribution arteries would likely be severed because the Salt Lake County main water line crosses the fault line 19 times.

To provide relief in the event of a disaster, the American Red Cross has 19 local paid staff in Utah and nearly 1,000 volunteers in addition to partner organizations it could call upon. Healthcare teams in Utah have disaster preparedness consultants who have put together plans to maximize bed availability through extended care facilities.

In terms of physical preparation at a high level, Utah is in good hands. However, it is also important to prepare for a technological disaster, which could have devastating effects on Utah’s economy. For example, cyber attacks on financial institutions or on sensitive personal data would be a serious incident with negative economic impact. Over the last five years, Utah government computer systems went from experiencing 25,000 attempted cyber attacks every day to experiencing up to 300 million cyber attacks each day—a 10,000-fold increase. While cyber attacks are more specifically targeted against government computers, individuals can also be targeted.

Additionally, power outages or downed cell phone towers during business hours could cause billions of dollars of lost productivity and revenue. Loss of refrigeration could lead to spoiled inventory. Any critical facility without a generator could experience more severe consequences, such as loss of physical or digital security, and loss of health-related or other machine-related functionality. About a month ago, a two-hour power blackout affected Salt Lake City, West Valley City, and Magna. Fortunately, the power outage occurred around 11:00 PM, which meant its effects were minimal and easily contained. The duration of electric outages in Utah from 2008 to 2013 averaged 39.2 hours per year and affected 181,753 people. Most power outages are small and easily manageable, but it is important to be prepared in the case of lengthier outages.

To safeguard against potential loss from any type of disaster Utah could face in the coming years, it is essential to our economic vitality to have measures in place. Utah has statewide plans to mitigate disasters, but it is equally important for individuals and businesses to create their own plans to minimize the effects of exogenous shocks on our economic system.

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Close up image of cracks in pavement or cement

Short-Term U.S. Outlook

U.S. economic data continues to straddle the line between strong recovery and relapse into downturn. First-quarter GDP growth was revised upward from 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent, which is a step in the right direction, but this figure was still lower than the expected increase of 0.9 percent. This represents the slowest annual growth rate since the first quarter of 2015. The upward revision reflected an increase in after-tax corporate profits of 0.6 percent, which was a welcome change from the fourth quarter’s decline of 8.4 percent. Income also increased in the first quarter, expanding at a 2.2-percent rate compared to the previous quarter’s 1.9-percent rate. On a high level, first-quarter GDP growth has been sluggish for five of the last six years, so poor performance in the first-quarter, although unwelcome, is not unexpected.

The labor market offered the biggest shock in terms of economic data. While the unemployment rate declined from 5.0 percent to 4.7 percent, the jobs report released at the beginning of June revealed that a mere 38,000 jobs had been added to the economy in May—significantly below Wall Street’s projected growth of 162,000 jobs. Last year, the economy added 2.7 million jobs, which averaged out to 230,000 per month. Economists are currently trying to understand if May’s gain of 38,000 represents a temporary lull in job creation—an indication that we are nearing full employment—or a signal of a developing trend.

Consumer spending was not revised in the GDP growth estimate. Consumer spending has been a large driver of U.S. economic growth over the past several years. Amid falling global demand, the American populace provided much of the momentum needed to stay on track for economic recovery. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, which means Americans and their purchasing behaviors will continue to play a major part in the U.S. economic outlook over the short and long term.

On a positive note, home values and personal disposable income have risen over the past year. Lower oil prices have resulted in an average household purchasing power increase of $1,300 since mid-2014. Strong consumer spending is likely to continue barring any unforeseen adverse economic circumstances.

Long-Term U.S. Outlook

Some interesting developments in the U.K, China, and Trans-Pacific Partnership could have a major impact on the long-term economic outlook of the United States.

First, the U.K. referendum regarding whether or not it should remain in the European Union will have a significant effect on the long-term U.S. economy. The European Union in general is a major trading partner for the U.S., and any hit to its stability will certainly jostle the United States and leave a range of questions about the long-term reliability of the partnership from an economic perspective.

Second, China has been working hard to prop up the Yuan, but the long-term stability of the Yuan is questionable. As the dollar’s value is rising—and will rise even further when the Fed raises rates—other currencies, including the Yuan, will drop in comparison. While China’s exporters may welcome a declining Yuan, the bigger worry is that capital outflow may result. China has many capital controls in place, but it cannot guarantee that investors will not move their money overseas.

Third, uncertainty in the upcoming U.S. presidential election has put some economic agreements in a holding pattern, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A recent economic study indicated that the TPP would provide a boost for American agriculture and services, although the U.S. would face greater competition in manufacturing. However, the future of the TPP is uncertain at this point as presidential contenders have rejected the TPP and slammed past trade agreements.

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US Consumer Price Index is up 0.5 points Utah Consumer Price Index rose 1.1%

Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index

The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 1.1 percent from March to April on a non-seasonally-adjusted basis. The index has increased 2.1 percent since this same time last year, which is very near the Federal Reserve’s national inflation target of 2 percent. The national Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent from March to April and increased 1.1 percent over the last year.

Transportation prices were the primary driver of the increase in Utah’s April CPI, rising 3.6 percent from the month before as airfare and gasoline prices increased. Crude oil rose nearly 20 percent in April. Food away from home prices rose 1.6 percent from March to April, contributing to the overall increase in Utah’s CPI.

In spite of rising oil prices, utilities declined more than any other sector in April as providers switched to lower summer rates for gas. Along with decreased prices for propane, these lower rates offset slight increases in rates for water, causing utilities prices to decline 2.3 percent this month. Prices for other goods and services also declined 0.6 percent as prices for personal care products decreased.

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National Unemployment rate dropped to 4.7% Utah Unemployment Rate increased to 3.7%

Labor Market

The unemployment rate in Utah increased two tenths of a percent from March to 3.7 percent in April. The state’s year-over-year growth in total employment rose from 3.3 percent last month to 3.4 percent in April. Compared to a year ago, Utah has added 46,500 jobs to the economy, with the current employment level registering at 1,415,800. The United States’ unemployment rate decreased 0.3 percentage point to 4.7 percent.

Utah is currently tied with Oregon for having the second-fastest growing economy in the country as measured by job growth. Eight of ten sectors measured posted net job increases this month, while the natural resources and mining industry and other services sector were the only industries that posted net job losses. The education and health services sector experienced the largest private sector employment increase this month. A report recently published by the Lumina Foundation found that 47.9 percent of Utahns in 2014 had a college degree or certificate, which was above the 2014 national average of 45.3 percent. As more Utahns find employment in the education sector, the state will benefit from added productivity and an even more educated workforce.

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Utah Consumer Attitude Index down 4.8 points US Consumer Confidence Index is down 2.1 points

Utah Consumer Attitude Index

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index (CAI) decreased 4.8 points to 104.2 in May. Slightly more negative perspectives regarding the economy’s future led to this decline, though concerns about the future were balanced by confidence in the present situation, which was stronger than last month. The overall CAI currently sits 7.3 points lower than its level 12 months ago. In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index® decreased 2.1 points from April to May and currently sits at 92.6.

Expectations for the next six months decreased 8.5 points in May due to a more negative outlook on future business conditions and employment opportunities. Fewer Utahns think business conditions in their area will be better in six months—down from 26 percent in April to 24 percent in May. The outlook for the labor market is also slightly more negative, as only 24 percent of Utahns think there will be more jobs available in their area six months from now—a four-point decline since last month. Income expectations have declined 3 percent since last month, with just 32 percent of Utahns expecting their household income to be greater six months from now.

The Present Situation Index, the sub-index of the CAI that measures how consumers feel about current economic conditions, has risen 0.7 points since last month but remains 4.0 points lower than this time last year. Utahns believe the general business environment is more favorable compared to last month: 53 percent of Utahns rate general business conditions in their area as good. This represents a 1-percent increase from last month, but a 2-percent decline from last year. Forty-eight percent of Utahns describe available jobs in their area as plentiful, a 1-percent increase since last year. Although unemployment in Utah increased from 3.5 percent in March to 3.7 percent in April, Utah’s unemployment rate remains the ninth-lowest in the country.

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Utah CoreLogic Home Price Index increased to 8.0% National CoreLogic Home Price Index is up 6.2%

Housing Market

Home prices rose slightly both across the nation and in Utah in April. Utah’s home prices increased 1.7 percent from March to April, and have grown 8.0 percent since April 2015. Nationally, home prices increased 1.8 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 0.9 percent in May 2016, and by 5.3 percent by April 2017.

Although home prices remain 7.9 percent below peak values recorded in April 2006, the U.S. has now experienced 51 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, including distressed sales, which indicates continued progress towards a full recovery. A new peak level in home prices is expected to be reached in April 2017. In Utah, home prices are forecasted to increase 1.1 percent this month and 5.7 percent in the next year. A recent ranking of “hottest housing markets” by real estate website Zillow placed Ogden and Salt Lake City as the sixth and seventh top cities in the country for home sales, respectively. With steady income growth and low unemployment, housing appreciation is to be expected in the Utah housing market.

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Graduates wearing graduation robes throwing caps into air

How the Impact of Our Community and Technical Colleges Can Be Magnified

I recently attended graduation ceremonies at one of Utah’s technology colleges. As the stream of proud graduates walked across the stage, I was caught off guard by the depth of emotion I felt as I witnessed the conspicuous enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment the families and graduates exhibited in response to their achievement. Many of those crossing the stage were older. There were more females than males. There was tremendous ethnic diversity. I soon learned that many graduates were single parents, while others were returning to school after raising a family. And I’m certain that a great many of them have experienced and overcome challenges I’ve never remotely approached. I was deeply moved by what I saw, heard, and experienced that evening.

Subsequent to the ceremony, I was privileged to visit with several of the graduates. English is Johnny’s second language. He has three young children and worked full-time in the evenings as a CNA while attending a rigorous nursing program during the daytime. He studied on the weekends and in the few remaining waking hours he had available. April is a single mother with two young children. Her mother moved in with her in order to help with the children while April spent 60 hours a week attending class, labs, clinicals, and studying while also working another 40 hours a week. These were simply two of the life-changing stories I heard – from wounded veterans to first-time generation college attendees to rehabilitated felons.

What so many of these students achieved in their education and training was not easy. But what they gained as they sacrificed beyond the requirements of their programs has reinforced their tenacity, empathy, and strength. Combined with their new technical skills, these characteristics empower graduates with unique knowledge and capability that will enrich their lives, their families, and our society as a whole.

Each year, Utah’s technical and community colleges award more than 10,000 Associate degrees or certificates to graduates in a range of programs across the state. This year, more than 30 percent of these graduates were over the age of 30. Over 300 were veterans and almost 100 graduates studied from within a correctional facility. Twenty-one percent were ethnic minorities and 56 percent were female. Some graduates will go on to a four-year university, and others will immediately enter the workforce with enhanced skills that will benefit them for a lifetime.

Because higher education has such a substantive effect on economic and social good—not to mention the impact it has on individuals and families—Governor Herbert has set an ambitious vision that two-thirds of Utah adults will have a post-secondary certificate or degree by 2020. This goal will require innovation, collaboration, and investment in our colleges. Two specific changes will be of significant value in achieving this goal, and in expanding access to the benefits of higher education in our state: 1) boosting resources to help technical and community colleges identify, reach out to, and enroll prospective students, and 2) defining a clearer path for transferring credits to four-year schools.

First, although our technical and community colleges provide extraordinary value for individuals and families, these schools often function with more limited resources than four-year institutions. This particularly affects their capacity to broadly market themselves and connect with members of the community whose lives would benefit from the programs they offer. As a state, we must allocate greater resources and support to these schools in reaching out to potential students. Successful outreach programs will show potential students what opportunities are available at these schools and how to access them.

Second, students who choose to go on to study at four year universities will get greater value from their technical and community education and will be more likely to enjoy the full benefits higher education can provide them if they can transfer credits efficiently. In fact, students who can transfer most of their community college credits are almost three times more likely to earn a four-year degree than students who can transfer fewer than half of their credits. To realize the full benefits of higher education, we must continue to expand pathways to enable technical and community college graduates to hit the ground running at a four-year university.

By enriching resources for outreach and clarifying the path for credit transfer and acceptance, we will support our state’s goal to boost higher education rates. As I personally witnessed the capabilities, dedication, and momentum of these new graduates, I could see clearly the impact—societal, familial, and personal—of this education. For many graduates, their lives and the lives of future generations have been categorically changed.

Read more Read more
Seismic needle and red ink on graph paper

It’s an Earthquake Drill!

Each week, Utah experiences multiple small-magnitude earthquakes. Although the absence of a large, detrimental earthquake in the recent past makes it difficult to think of earthquakes as real threats, preparedness education is vital to quick recovery if such a quake manifests. Where Utah residents are prepared and know how to react quickly, they will be able to mitigate damage and minimize life disruption.

Each year in April, more than 700,000 Utahns around the state participate in the Great Utah Shake Out, practicing what to do in the event of a major earthquake. Shake Out drills occur across the nation, and residents can look up scenarios that are likely to occur in their own areas based on local topography. Currently, twenty earthquake scenarios are available for Utah, and they vary by location in the state. The worst-case scenario is based on a 7.0-magnitude earthquake along the Salt Lake City segment of the Wasatch Fault, which would expose the majority of Utah’s population to severe ground shaking and potential destruction.

Whether or not you have participated in the Great Utah Shake Out, you can prepare now for earthquakes by identifying safe places for cover, practicing quickly dropping to the ground and finding cover, and creating a contact plan for your family and workplace.

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Consumer Confidence

The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® decreased 2.1 points to 92.6 in May. The Present Situation Index decreased 4.2 points to 112.9, and the Expectations Index decreased 0.7 points to 79.0.

Housing Market

In April, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Idaho, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 7.5%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.2% during the same period.

Inflation

The U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.5% from March to April. 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 decreased 0.1 percentage point to 3.7% in April, and the national unemployment rate decreased 0.3 percentage point to 4.7% in April.

July 2016

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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

Idaho has a thriving economy that should continue to grow at a relatively steady pace for a considerable length of time barring any disruptions. But what would happen if Idaho experienced an unexpected disaster on the home front? Is our economy and infrastructure strong enough to handle external shocks?

With the recent flooding in Texas, earthquakes in Australia, and onslaught of the ZIKA virus in South America, we are reminded that disaster can strike in myriad places and ways. Fortunately, Idaho has developed a specific state emergency preparedness plan that outlines what is to be done in the event of disaster.

The hazards that would cause the greatest loss of life and damage in excess of $1 billion in Idaho include floods, wildfires, and earthquakes. According to Idaho’s 2015 Emergency Preparedness Plan, the state is most at risk for wildfire disruption, cyber disruption, and flooding. Other disasters could be detrimental to the state’s economy, such as avalanches, volcanic eruptions, extended loss of electricity, internet or cell phone connectivity, or a severe epidemic. By potentially ruining buildings, roads, infrastructure, and access to utilities, disasters such as earthquakes and wildfires would create the highest degree of physical disruption to personal and business life in Idaho.

Idaho’s Emergency Preparedness Plan dictates that first responses are to be administered on a local level. Increased assistance follows order of jurisdiction, beginning with municipal assistance, and moving up through county, state, and federal assistance. Idaho has divided training for emergency preparedness into five specific areas: prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. The military and different state agencies take part in training and planning for natural disasters.

Local organizations educate staff and volunteers to assist in case of emergency. For example, the American Red Cross in Idaho is prepared to respond with food and shelter whenever and wherever disaster strikes. They bring neighbors together to care for each other, and they teach people life-saving skills.

Idaho is in good hands in terms of physical preparation. It is also important to prepare for a technological disaster, which could have devastating effects on Idaho’s economy. The Idaho National Laboratory has been actively working to ensure power grid cyber security for years. The Idaho National Laboratory owns 111 miles of transmission and distribution grid on which it can run tests and mock cyber attacks. It can then provide facts to the community to help plan disaster responses. Extended loss of power in a region could be catastrophic because all other sectors of the economy depend on electricity. Power outages or downed cell phone towers during business hours could cause billions of dollars of lost productivity and revenue.

To safeguard against potential loss from any type of disaster Idaho could face in the coming years, it is essential to our economic vitality to have measures in place. Idaho has statewide plans to mitigate disasters, but it is equally important for individuals and businesses to create their own plans to minimize the effects of exogenous shocks on our economic system.

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Large fire burning with smoke covering the sun

Short-term U.S. Outlook

U.S. economic data continues to straddle the line between strong recovery and relapse into downturn. First-quarter GDP growth was revised upward from 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent, which is a step in the right direction, but this figure was still lower than the expected increase of 0.9 percent. This represents the slowest annual growth rate since the first quarter of 2015. The upward revision reflected an increase in after-tax corporate profits of 0.6 percent, which was a welcome change from the fourth quarter’s decline of 8.4 percent. Income also increased in the first quarter, expanding at a 2.2-percent rate compared to the previous quarter’s 1.9-percent rate. On a high level, first-quarter GDP growth has been sluggish for five of the last six years, so poor performance in the first-quarter, although unwelcome, is not unexpected.

The labor market offered the biggest shock in terms of economic data. While the unemployment rate declined from 5.0 percent to 4.7 percent, the jobs report released at the beginning of June revealed that a mere 38,000 jobs had been added to the economy in May—significantly below Wall Street’s projected growth of 162,000 jobs. Last year, the economy added 2.7 million jobs, which averaged out to 230,000 per month. Economists are currently trying to understand if May’s gain of 38,000 represents a temporary lull in job creation—an indication that we are nearing full employment—or a signal of a developing trend.

Consumer spending was not revised in the GDP growth estimate. Consumer spending has been a large driver of U.S. economic growth over the past several years. Amid falling global demand, the American populace provided much of the momentum needed to stay on track for economic recovery. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, which means Americans and their purchasing behaviors will continue to play a major part in the U.S. economic outlook over the short and long term.

On a positive note, home values and personal disposable income have risen over the past year. Lower oil prices have resulted in an average household purchasing power increase of $1,300 since mid-2014. Strong consumer spending is likely to continue barring any unforeseen adverse economic circumstances.

Long-Term U.S. Outlook

Some interesting developments in the U.K, China, and Trans-Pacific Partnership could have a major impact on the long-term economic outlook of the United States.

First, the U.K. referendum regarding whether or not it should remain in the European Union will have a significant effect on the long-term U.S. economy. The European Union in general is a major trading partner for the U.S., and any hit to its stability will certainly jostle the United States and leave a range of questions about the long-term reliability of the partnership from an economic perspective.

Second, China has been working hard to prop up the Yuan, but the long-term stability of the Yuan is questionable. As the dollar’s value is rising—and will rise even further when the Fed raises rates—other currencies, including the Yuan, will drop in comparison. While China’s exporters may welcome a declining Yuan, the bigger worry is that capital outflow may result. China has many capital controls in place, but it cannot guarantee that investors will not move their money overseas.

Third, uncertainty in the upcoming U.S. presidential election has put some economic agreements in a holding pattern, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A recent economic study indicated that the TPP would provide a boost for American agriculture and services, although the U.S. would face greater competition in manufacturing. However, the future of the TPP is uncertain at this point as presidential contenders have rejected the TPP and slammed past trade agreements.

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US Consumer Price Index is up 0.5 points

U.S. Consumer Price Index

The national Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.5 percent from March to April on a non-seasonally-adjusted basis. The national CPI has increased 1.1 percent over the last year, which is below the Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target of 2 percent.

The overall rise in CPI was driven by increases across a broad range of categories as the indexes for food, energy, and all items less food and energy rose in April. The energy index rose 3.4 percent, and the gasoline index rose 8.1 percent. In spite of these gains, the energy index has declined 8.9 percent over the last year. Meanwhile, the food index increased 0.2 percent in April, and has risen 0.9 percent over the last 12 months. The index for all items less food and energy—a less-volatile measurement of prices—also increased 0.2 percent this month. Over the last 12 months, the index for all items less food and energy has increased 2.1 percent.

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National Unemployment rate dropped to 4.7% Idaho Unemployment Rate drops to 3.7%

Labor Market

Idaho’s unemployment rate declined one-tenth of a percent from March to 3.7 percent in April. Idaho’s nonfarm payrolls increased by four-tenths of a percent this month, while the state’s seasonally-adjusted nonfarm jobs grew by 25,700, or 3.8 percent, compared to last year. The strongest year-over-year employment gains occurred in the construction, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality sectors, which all experienced year-over-year growth of greater than 5 percent. Information and natural resources were the only sectors that experienced annual employment declines. The United States’ unemployment rate decreased 0.3 percentage point from last month to 4.7 percent.

Idaho’s labor market has continued to outperform the rest of the U.S. for the past six straight months, ranking first in the nation for percentage increase of jobs. March marked the tenth consecutive month that total unemployment decreased in Idaho. Idaho’s cost of living is the sixth-lowest in the nation, allowing businesses in the area to pay lower wages but still be considered competitive. As the state’s economy continues to grow, more Idahoans are able to find work.

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US Consumer Confidence Index is down 2.1 points

U.S. Consumer Confidence Index

The Conference Board’s U.S. Consumer Confidence Index declined 2.1 points to 92.6 in May. The Present Situation Index, which measures sentiment about the current state of the economy, decreased from 117.1 to 112.9, while the Expectations Index decreased from 79.7 to 79.0, indicating slightly weaker confidence in the state of the economy six months out.

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was slightly more favorable as the percentage of consumers who felt business conditions were “good” increased from 24.2 percent in April to 25.9 percent in May. However, those stating current business conditions were “bad” also increased—up from 18.2 percent to 21.6 percent. Opinions of the labor market were more negative: those claiming jobs are “plentiful” remained mostly unchanged at 24.3 percent while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” increased from 22.8 percent to 24.4 percent.

Currently, consumers are less optimistic about the future, as indicated by the percentage of consumers who expect business conditions to worsen—up from 10.8 percent to 11.6 percent this month. Perspectives about the job market are also less favorable: those who anticipate more jobs in the months ahead remained unchanged, while those who anticipate fewer jobs increased from 16.7 percent to 18.1 percent.

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Idaho CoreLogic Home Price Index up 7.5% National CoreLogic Home Price Index is up 6.2%

Housing Market

Home prices continued to rise slightly across the nation and in Idaho in April. Idaho’s home prices increased 1.9 percent from March to April, and have risen 7.5 percent since April 2015. Nationally, home prices increased 1.8 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 0.9 percent in May 2016, and by 5.3 percent by April 2017.

Although home prices remain 7.9 percent below peak values recorded in April 2006, the U.S. has now experienced 51 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, including distressed sales, indicating progress towards a full recovery. A new peak level in home prices is expected to be reached in April 2017. In Idaho, home prices are forecasted to increase 1.3 percent this month and 6.4 percent in the next year. According to statements by the Ada County Assessor’s Office, residential property values increased 7.7 percent on average this year, compared with an increase of 6.8 percent last year. As employment in Idaho continues to grow, the housing market is well poised to flourish.

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Graduates wearing graduation robes throwing caps into air

How the Impact of Our Community and Technical Colleges Can Be Magnified

I recently attended graduation ceremonies at a technology college. As the stream of proud graduates walked across the stage, I was caught off guard by the depth of emotion I felt as I witnessed the conspicuous enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment the families and graduates exhibited in response to their achievement. Many of those crossing the stage were older. There were more females than males. There was tremendous ethnic diversity. I soon learned that many graduates were single parents, while others were returning to school after raising a family. And I’m certain that a great many of them have experienced and overcome challenges I’ve never remotely approached. I was deeply moved by what I saw, heard, and experienced that evening.

Subsequent to the ceremony, I was privileged to visit with several of the graduates. English is Johnny’s second language. He has three young children and worked full-time in the evenings as a CNA while attending a rigorous nursing program during the daytime. He studied on the weekends and in the few remaining waking hours he had available. April is a single mother with two young children. Her mother moved in with her in order to help with the children while April spent 60 hours a week attending class, labs, clinicals, and studying while also working another 40 hours a week. These were simply two of the life changing stories I heard – from wounded veterans to first-time generation college attendees to rehabilitated felons.

What so many of these students achieved in their education and training was not easy. But what they gained as they sacrificed beyond the requirements of their programs has reinforced their tenacity, empathy, and strength. Combined with their new technical skills, these characteristics empower graduates with unique knowledge and capability that will enrich their lives, their families, and our society as a whole.

Each year, Idaho’s technical and community colleges award more than 4,000 Associate degrees or certificates to graduates in a range of programs across the state. This year, nearly 30 percent of these graduates were over the age of 30. Almost 30 percent were ethnic minorities and 60 percent were female. Some graduates will go on to a four-year university, and others will immediately enter the workforce with enhanced skills that will benefit them for a lifetime.

Because higher education has such a substantive effect on economic and social good—not to mention the impact it has on individuals and families—Governor Otter has set an ambitious vision that 60 percent of Idahoans age 25 to 34 will achieve some kind of post-secondary education by 2020. This goal will require innovation, collaboration, and investment in our colleges. Two specific changes will be of significant value in achieving this goal, and in expanding access to the benefits of higher education in our state: 1) boosting resources to help technical and community colleges identify, reach out to, and enroll prospective students, and 2) defining a clearer path for transferring credits to four-year schools.

First, although our technical and community colleges provide extraordinary value for individuals and families, these schools often function with more limited resources than four-year institutions. This particularly affects their capacity to broadly market themselves and connect with members of the community whose lives would benefit from the programs they offer. As a state, we must allocate greater resources and support to these schools in reaching out to potential students. Successful outreach programs will show potential students what opportunities are available at these schools and how to access them.

Second, students who choose to go on to study at four year universities will get greater value from their technical and community education, and will be more likely to enjoy the full benefits higher education can provide them, if they can transfer credits efficiently. In fact, students who can transfer most of their community college credits are almost three times more likely to earn a four-year degree than students who can transfer fewer than half of their credits. To realize the full benefits of higher education, we must continue to expand pathways to enable technical and community college graduates to hit the ground running at a four-year university.

By enriching resources for outreach and clarifying the path for credit transfer and acceptance, we will support our state’s goal to boost higher education rates. As I personally witnessed the capabilities, dedication, and momentum of these new graduates, I could see clearly the immeasurable impact—societal, familial and personal—of this education. For many graduates, their lives and the lives of future generations have been categorically changed.

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Seismic needle and red ink on graph paper

It’s an Earthquake Drill!

Each week, Idaho experiences multiple small-magnitude earthquakes. Although the absence of a large, detrimental earthquake in the recent past might make it difficult to think of earthquakes as real threats, preparedness education is vital to quick recovery if such a quake manifests. Where Idaho residents are prepared and know how to react quickly, they will be able to mitigate damage and minimize life disruption.

Each year in October, more than 125,000 Idahoans around the state participate in the Great Idaho Shake Out, practicing what to do in the event of a major earthquake. Shake Out drills occur across the nation, and residents can look up scenarios that are likely to occur in their own areas based on local topography. For Idaho, individualized Shake Out scenarios are available for the Northern, Northeast, North Central, Central, Southeast, and Southwest areas.

Historical geologic records indicate that a 6.0-magnitude earthquake is possible in different places throughout the state. Whether or not you participate in the Great Idaho Shake Out, you can prepare for earthquakes by identifying safe places for cover, practicing quickly dropping to the ground and finding cover, and creating a contact plan for your family and workplace.

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This page was last modified on Tue Jul 26 16:28:53 MDT 2016