Important Details
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Consumer Confidence

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index increased 5.8 points to 111.4 in May. The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index increased 1.1 points to 95.4 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 6.2%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.8% during the same period.

Inflation

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Price Index increased 1.4% from March to April for a trailing 12-month inflation of 1.0%. In the same period, the U.S. CPI increased 0.2% for a trailing 12-month inflation of -0.2%.

Job Report

Utah’s unemployment rate remained steady at 3.4% in April, while the national unemployment rate decreased 0.1 point to 5.4% in April.

July 2015

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Randy Shumway January 2015

Utah Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

Fifteen years ago, Lehi, Utah, was a small, relatively sleepy community near the point of the mountain with a population of approximately 19,000 people. It blended easily among the other cities and towns along the Wasatch Front. By 2008, Lehi’s population had swelled to 48,000, and then to more than 54,000 in 2013 according to the most recent U.S. Census. Now, in 2015, the city’s name has become a buzzword people use to highlight economic development and growth potential in Utah. The city’s significant economic growth over a relatively short period of time stems from a confluence of strategic planning and rapid growth in the area’s technological industry.

Although it may have seemed to emerge unprompted from the woodwork, Lehi’s rise to economic stardom was jumpstarted by strategic planning. Located between economic centers Salt Lake City and Provo/Orem, Lehi has always been geographically positioned to be a major economic contributor in the state. According to Lehi City’s 2008 Strategic Economic Plan, the city outlined several goals that have materialized exactly as desired. The major goal of the city was to “establish a well-balanced and sustainable economic base through a three-fold approach that expands the City’s sales tax base, property tax base, and buying power through good-paying jobs.” In order to accomplish its goals, Lehi approached developers to ensure that development occurred consistently and sustainably, determined what infrastructure was available and needed for growth, and worked with UDOT to plan for transportation connections between Salt Lake City and Provo, among other things. Since then, Lehi has gradually established itself as a business, art, and technology center where people come to shop, work, and live.

Endearingly known as “Silicon Slopes,” Lehi has become a hub for technology companies that require advanced skills and provide high-paying jobs. IM Flash was the first technology company in the area and proved to be a key catalyst in Lehi’s transformation as the City focused on attracting other high-tech firms that were complementary to IM Flash. Microsoft opened its Lehi office in September 2009, and initially provided 100 new jobs. In October 2010, Adobe announced it was building a 230,000-square-foot campus in Lehi with the promise of at least 1,000 new jobs. Even more big names have since opened doors in Lehi or plan to open in the near future, including Vivint, NUVI, MX, Xactware, Oracle, and Ancestry.com. Each new company brings more jobs and more notoriety to the area—Oracle has promised at least 351 jobs, and Ancestry.com announced it will provide over 1,000 new jobs. Almost all of these new jobs require advanced skills and pay salaries higher than the state average.

The immigration of technology companies to Lehi’s “Silicon Slopes” isn’t likely to slow down for some time as positive synergy boosts the momentum and economic value of the area. Lehi’s growth and success over the past decade has increased the city’s economic well-being, and has furthered Utah’s reputation as a great destination for anyone interested in high-tech jobs.

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Wall Street with US flags on display

Short-Term U.S. Outlook

After the Commerce Department released its initial estimate of first-quarter GDP growth, economists were disappointed to note that the GDP had grown so little relative to their expectations. Between the release of the first and second estimates, many economists revised their expectations further downward, considering the initial estimate of 0.2 percent growth optimistic. At the end of May, the Commerce Department revealed that the U.S. economy contracted 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015 (according to its second estimate).

Slowing GDP growth was attributed primarily to three factors: labor disputes at West Coast ports that decelerated shipping, harsh winter weather that once again dampened consumer spending, and a strong U.S. dollar, which negatively affected exports. Exports fell 8 percent in the first quarter, while imports increased 6 percent. Corporate profits also trended downward, falling 6 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2014.

As much as the situation sounds like a repeat of last year, first-quarter GDP growth is always a bit of an anomaly. In fact, over the past several years, the first quarter has averaged 0.6 percent annualized growth, while the other three quarters have averaged 3 percent annualized growth. At this point, however, the second quarter isn’t demonstrating evidence of a strong comeback, but almost all economists expect some uptick in growth.

Reports from the Federal Reserve have been mixed on the topic of inflation as it relates to economic growth. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen recently said that she expects consumer price inflation will move up to the Central Bank’s 2-percent target as the economy strengthens. However, Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Federal Reserve, said in June that “conditions for beginning the tightening of monetary policy have not yet been met.” As is typically the case, an assessment of the strength of the U.S. economy varies according to the articles you read and the economists you trust.

Since GDP growth measurements look backward rather than forward, other economic indicators are important in analyzing the future health of the economy. For example, the labor market is currently strong, and jobs are growing rapidly. Job growth indicates that business owners are optimistic about demand for their products and services. Housing is also a good indicator of economic strength because people invest in houses when they are confident in their income stream and future circumstances. Current increases in home demand and home prices signal that the economy is getting stronger in that aspect. Looking at gains in jobs and housing, the U.S. economy is growing—it may just continue to take some time.

The Federal Open Market Committee, which is the Federal Reserve Committee that discusses monetary policy and interest rate increases, met at the end of April and did not decide on a date to raise interest rates. Speculation on the timing of interest rate rises continues on both sides of the issue—many economists expect rate hikes in September, while others are skeptical of changes anytime soon.

Jobless claims dropped significantly in the last weeks of April, and the employment-cost index, a broad measure of wage and benefit expenses, rose a seasonally-adjusted 0.7 percent in the first quarter, up from its 0.5-percent gain in the fourth quarter 2014. Private-industry wages and salaries increased to 2.8 percent annual growth from 2.2 percent the previous quarter, which is their strongest annual growth since the third quarter of 2008. Wages still have a way to go, but they appear to be increasing slightly.

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 0.2% Utah Consumer Price Index increased 1.4%

U.S. Consumer Price Index

The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 1.4 percent from March to April on a non-seasonally-adjusted basis. The index has increased 1.0 percent since this same time last year. The national Consumer Price Index increased 0.2 percent from March to April, and has decreased 0.2 percent over the past twelve months.

Price increases in several categories contributed to the increase in the Wasatch Front CPI in April. Most notable were the increases in prices for food at home and transportation, which rose 3.7 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. Food price hikes were driven primarily by increases in seafood, poultry, and egg prices. Poultry and egg prices swelled as avian flu hit farms in the Midwest in what has been characterized as the worst bird flu outbreak in U.S. history. More than 33.5 million turkeys and chickens have been exterminated or are scheduled to be exterminated, and 162 farms across 16 states have confirmed bird flu cases.

On the other hand, the dairy industry is experiencing decreasing prices across the country as milk consumption declines amid production increases. Consumers aren’t buying as much milk as they used to, and, although the bustling Greek yogurt business has soaked up some of the demand for milk, many farmers expanded their herds to produce more milk than these burgeoning yogurt plants need.

Transportation prices—particularly higher airfare, gasoline, and vehicle prices—also drove the increase in the Wasatch Front CPI. Airfare jumped heading into spring break and summer vacation season. Gasoline prices continue to rise, but at a rate that is slowing. Prices for utilities decreased more than any other sub-index as natural gas rates declined—utilities dropped 1.3 percent in April. Lower summer natural gas prices are now in place and will remain through October. Garbage and propane rates increased from March to April, but they have a small impact on consumers’ wallets.

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NNational Unemployment Rate decreased to 5.4% Utah Unemployment Rate remained at 3.4%

Labor Market

Utah’s labor market continued to shine in April as the unemployment rate remained at 3.4 percent. Over the past year, nonfarm payroll in the state has grown by 5.0 percent, adding 52,500 jobs. This marked the fourth straight month of solid growth for Utah. Over the first four months in 2015, Utah’s unemployment number remained under 50,000, and an average of 53,000 jobs were added monthly. Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point, to 5.4 percent, as the economy added 223,000 jobs. This was a nice jump from the relatively low job growth numbers of March, which saw the addition of just over 80,000 jobs nationally.

With the national unemployment rate slowly falling over the first quarter, it seems counterintuitive that GDP would have contracted over the same time period, but that has indeed been the case: GDP shrank by 0.7 percent in the first quarter. One likely explanation for this discrepancy is the combination of a very low labor participation rate and an unusually-high U-6 unemployment rate. U-6 measures those who are currently working part time but would prefer to be working full time. While there have been real gains in the national labor market recently, they might not be as robust as they appear at first glance, indicating the need for continued improvement in the labor market.

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Utah Consumer Attitude Index increased 5.8 points National Consumer Confidence Index at 95.4 points

U.S. Consumer Confidence Index

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index (CAI) increased 5.8 points to 111.4 in May. Sentiment about the present situation and expectations for the next six months both improved, and the CAI currently sits 15.2 points higher than its level twelve months ago. The national Consumer Confidence Index® (CCI) increased 1.1 points from April to May and currently sits at 95.4.

The Present Situation Index, the sub-index of the CAI that measures how consumers feel about current economic conditions, currently sits at 118.2 points—its highest level on record. Both measures that feed into the Present Situation Index are at record highs this month, further confirming that economic conditions in Utah are thriving. The percentage of consumers who rate current business conditions as “good” increased 7 points to 55 percent in May. Forty-one percent of consumers assess business conditions as “normal,” and just 5 percent think they are “bad.” Consumers are also positive about the employment situation in their areas, with 41 percent describing jobs as “plentiful”—up 6 percent from last month.

Expectations for the future are on the rise as well. The Expectations Index, the sub-index of the CAI that measures how consumers feel about economic conditions six months from now, increased 3.9 points from April to May and currently sits at 107.0—10.6 points higher than its level a year ago. Gasoline prices, while still trending upward, are rising at a slower rate, and this is reflected in consumers’ expectations for gasoline prices. Eighty-four percent of Utahns expect gasoline prices to increase over the next twelve months, down from 86 percent in April and 89 percent in March.

The number of Utahns who expect interest rates to rise has generally declined. In May, 60 percent of Utahns expected interest rates for borrowing money to go up, which is down from 66 percent in April. Likewise, 69 percent of consumers expect prices for consumer goods to increase, which is 4 points lower than last month. The majority still expects higher prices, but that majority is decreasing.

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Utah CoreLogic Home Price Index increased 6.2% National CoreLogic Home Price Index up 6.8%

Housing Market

The housing market made progress on the road to full recovery as housing prices increased 1.5 percent in Utah and 2.7 percent nationally from March to April according to the CoreLogic Home Price Index. This represented a 6.2-percent increase compared to April 2014 for Utah and a 6.8-percent year-over-year increase for national home prices. In Utah, home prices are still 7.2 percent below their June 2007 peak and home prices nationally are still 9.0 percent below their pre-recession high.

According to a report from the Commerce Department, new home prices rose 4.1 percent nationally in April to reach a median price of $297,300. This was a turnaround from the previous three months, which saw slight declines in the median price for new homes. Why the sudden increase in home prices? It might have to do with a rapid increase in demand finally outstripping the available supply of new homes. While homebuilders have started construction of 7.6 percent more homes in the first quarter of this year than they did last year, 23.7 percent more new homes have been sold this year when comparing the same time periods. New building represents welcome economic activity: it should contribute not only to housing recovery, but also to the broader economic recovery.

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cityscape silhouette montage

Common Core: Maintaining a Globally Competitive Workforce

To build a family-sustaining career in the rapidly-changing global marketplace, our children will need vastly different skills than were required even just a decade ago. One of the most effective ways to improve the relevance and depth of what our students know and what they are capable of doing is by implementing the Common Core State Standards. Developed by a broad, national coalition of higher education experts, business leaders, school administrators, and teachers, these standards encourage deeper, more effectual learning. Specifically, instead of focusing on rote memorization of information, teachers build students’ abilities to analyze, think critically, and apply skills to real world problems.

The transition—as with any significant cultural change—has been difficult. Inherent transitional challenges have been exacerbated by the simultaneous reduction in professional development budgets. Teachers have been asked to fundamentally alter their teaching methods, but often have not been given the necessary training or tools to support such change. Similarly, many parents feel lost helping their children complete assignments at home as concepts are being taught differently.

The Common Core State Standards have also been accompanied with more lengthy and difficult assessments. Most states have experienced a temporary decrease in scores, to be expected with an increase in test complexity.

But the new assessments are more complex because they are designed to measure higher-level skills and to close the gap between state and international proficiency standards. In Utah, where the sophisticated SAGE exam was developed, the assessments actually engage and teach students while simultaneously measuring their understanding. In Kentucky, where assessment scores dropped in year one of Common Core implementation, students’ college readiness levels increased a whopping 15 percent by year three.

Early adopters of Common Core Standards have shown that with sustained effort, student learning will improve and students will have greater ability to compete in the global job market. But requisite to the success of these efforts is significant investment in professional development for teachers. It is imperative that we equip our teachers with the strategies, resources, and methods they need to teach new skills in the manner today’s generation best learns. We must also equip parents with the tools they need to assist their children in learning challenging concepts. Students have shown that they are capable of complex learning when they are well supported by parents and teachers.

With income inequality expanding at an alarming rate in the United States, effective education, more than any other public effort, can help close this disconcerting income disparity by engendering increased capabilities and enhancing meaningful opportunities for willing workers. Common Core State Standards are just one crucial mechanism in improving student learning and paving the path to sustained social and economic prosperity.

To maintain the American workforce’s leadership in the global market, we must measurably improve what our graduates know and what they are capable of doing. The Common Core State Standards and their accompanying assessments are a positive step forward in preparing students for the demands of today’s global workforce.

Read more Read more
patch of red tulips in the sun

Thanksgiving Point

Education has a major impact on Utah’s future economic development as it prepares youth to enter the workforce. Since not all education happens in a classroom, Thanksgiving Point in Lehi provides an excellent opportunity for people of all ages to learn interactively and stay mentally sharp.

Thanksgiving Point provides numerous activities and venues to encourage learning throughout the year. The most popular event is the tulip festival, which occurs in April. Visitors roam the gardens to learn about tulip varieties and see beautiful flower arrangements. The gardens are open during other times of the year as well and can be rented for special events. Thanksgiving Point recently opened its Museum of Natural Curiosity, which offers interactive displays for hands-on learning. It also houses a Museum of Ancient Life wherein visitors can learn about dinosaurs and fossils. Thanksgiving Point’s Farm Country allows children to interact with live farm animals. Adults who visit can take classes in cooking, gardening, and crafting.

Amid the numerous tech companies on Lehi’s silicon slopes, Thanksgiving Point contributes significantly to the area in different ways by providing unique opportunities for education for the local community and the state of Utah.

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Consumer Confidence

The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® increased 1.1 points to 95.4 in May. The Present Situation Index increased 3.0 points to 108.1, while the Expectations Index decreased 0.2 points to 86.9.

Housing Market

In April, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Idaho, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 4.6%. Nationally, the HPI increased 6.8% during the same period.

Inflation

The U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.2% from March to April. Year over year, the index decreased 0.2%, which is below the Federal Reserve’s target annual inflation pace of 2%.

Job Report

Idaho’s unemployment rate remained flat at 3.8% in April, while the national unemployment rate decreased 0.1 point to 5.4% in April.

July 2015

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Randy Shumway January 2015

Idaho Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

The Boise Valley—including Boise, Meridian, Garden City, Nampa, Eagle, Star, and Caldwell—is often considered the economic center of the state. Many large companies call Boise home, including Micron Technology, the J.R. Simplot Company, MWI Veterinary Supply, and Albertsons grocery stores. Although it has always been central to Idaho’s economic development, Boise has made significant strides in the past few years that have attracted national attention, notoriety, and economic success.

Recent national accolades have put Boise on the map as a great place to live. Some of these include: #4 Downtown in America (Livability.com, October 2012), #1 Region “Getting it Right” (Time Magazine, March 2014), Lowest Business Costs in Pacific U.S. (KPMG’s Competitive Alternatives, 2012 and 2014), #7 Best Place to Raise a Family (Forbes, April 2014), and #1 Best City to Move To in 2014 (SML, March 2014).

Boise is also a great place to work. Overall, the average annual wage in the Boise Metro Area in 2013 was $38,852. Nearly 13 percent of households had annual household income of $75,000 to $100,000, and another 12 percent earned $60,000 to $75,000 in 2014.

To encourage business relocation and expansion, Boise has offered a range of attractive incentives. In July 2014, Idaho effected a new tax reimbursement incentive that essentially provides a 1 to 30 percent tax credit for 1 to 15 years on corporate sales, as well as withholding taxes for companies that bring expansion or relocation projects to the state of Idaho. Idaho also passed legislation in 2013 establishing a new grant program that allows the Director of Idaho’s Department of Commerce to direct funds to projects for infrastructure needs within the community. Better infrastructure supports quality of life and quality of business.

In May 2012, the Boise Valley was specifically designated as a foreign trade zone (FTZ)—a site licensed by the FTZ Board that has special customs procedures. These procedures allow domestic activity involving foreign items to take place prior to formal customs entry. Benefits of the foreign trade zone include duty exemption, duty deferral on imports, reduced merchandise processing fees, inverted tariffs, and logistical advantages. As a business-friendly foreign trade zone, Boise offers unique advantages to companies currently located there.

Boise’s growth is on the rise, and its business-friendly and family-friendly environment will continue to attract business relocation and expansion. The Boise Valley Economic Partnership provides free custom and confidential services to businesses looking to expand in the Boise Valley, further encouraging economic growth and development in the area. As Boise’s economic status continues to burgeon, the entire state benefits.

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Wall Street with US flags on display

Short-term U.S. Outlook

After the Commerce Department released its initial estimate of first-quarter GDP growth, economists were disappointed to note that the GDP had grown so little relative to their expectations. Between the release of the first and second estimates, many economists revised their expectations further downward, considering the initial estimate of 0.2 percent growth optimistic. At the end of May, the Commerce Department revealed that the U.S. economy contracted 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015 (according to its second estimate).

Slowing GDP growth was attributed primarily to three factors: labor disputes at West Coast ports that decelerated shipping, harsh winter weather that once again dampened consumer spending, and a strong U.S. dollar, which negatively affected exports. Exports fell 8 percent in the first quarter, while imports increased 6 percent. Corporate profits also trended downward, falling 6 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2014.

As much as the situation sounds like a repeat of last year, first-quarter GDP growth is always a bit of an anomaly. In fact, over the past several years, the first quarter has averaged 0.6 percent annualized growth, while the other three quarters have averaged 3 percent annualized growth. At this point, however, the second quarter isn’t demonstrating evidence of a strong comeback, but almost all economists expect some uptick in growth.

Reports from the Federal Reserve have been mixed on the topic of inflation as it relates to economic growth. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen recently said that she expects consumer price inflation will move up to the Central Bank’s 2-percent target as the economy strengthens. However, Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Federal Reserve, said in June that “conditions for beginning the tightening of monetary policy have not yet been met.” As is typically the case, an assessment of the strength of the U.S. economy varies according to the articles you read and the economists you trust.

Since GDP growth measurements look backward rather than forward, other economic indicators are important in analyzing the future health of the economy. For example, the labor market is currently strong, and jobs are growing rapidly. Job growth indicates that business owners are optimistic about demand for their products and services. Housing is also a good indicator of economic strength because people invest in houses when they are confident in their income stream and future circumstances. Current increases in home demand and home prices signal that the economy is getting stronger in that aspect. Looking at gains in jobs and housing, the U.S. economy is growing—it may just continue to take some time.

The Federal Open Market Committee, which is the Federal Reserve Committee that discusses monetary policy and interest rate increases, met at the end of April and did not decide on a date to raise interest rates. Speculation on the timing of interest rate rises continues on both sides of the issue—many economists expect rate hikes in September, while others are skeptical of changes anytime soon.

Jobless claims dropped significantly in the last weeks of April, and the employment-cost index, a broad measure of wage and benefit expenses, rose a seasonally-adjusted 0.7 percent in the first quarter, up from its 0.5-percent gain in the fourth quarter 2014. Private-industry wages and salaries increased to 2.8 percent annual growth from 2.2 percent the previous quarter, which is their strongest annual growth since the third quarter of 2008. Wages still have a way to go, but they appear to be increasing slightly.

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 0.2%

U.S. Consumer Price Index

The United States Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all urban consumers increased 0.2 percent in April on a non-seasonally-adjusted basis. Over the last twelve months, the index has declined 0.2 percent, which is below the Federal Reserve’s target inflation rate of 2 percent.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in April on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Due to large fluctuations in food and energy, analysts often use the ‘all items less food and energy’ index to more accurately measure price growth in the nation. April’s increase validated confidence in the economy’s overall strength, leading to a bump in the valuation of the U.S. dollar when compared to other currencies.

The price indices for shelter, medical care, household furnishings and operations, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles all increased in April. The overall energy index experienced a slight decline. Within the energy index, gasoline, natural gas, and fuel oil all declined, and electricity did not change. Food overall didn’t change from March to April, but food at home declined in price as food away from home increased in price. The price effects of the bird flu outbreak in the Midwest were likely offset by the overall decline in dairy prices as milk supply remains strong amid declining demand.

The twelve-month decline in the overall CPI was driven primarily by the decrease in the energy index, which has fallen 19.4 percent since this time last year. All major components of the energy index except electricity have fallen in the past twelve months.

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National Unemployment Rate decreased to 5.4% Idaho Unemployment Rate remained at 3.8%

Labor Market

Idaho’s labor market continued to shine in April as the unemployment rate remained at 3.8 percent. Over the past year, nonfarm payroll in the state has grown by 3.1 percent, adding 22,800 jobs. This growth was driven in large part by increases in construction jobs, which grew 7.6 percent over the past year, and financial activities jobs, which grew 3.4 percent. Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.4 percent as the economy added 223,000 jobs. This was a nice jump from the relatively low job growth numbers of March, which saw the addition of just over 80,000 jobs nationally.

With the national unemployment rate slowly falling over the first quarter, it seems counterintuitive that GDP would have contracted over the same time period, but that has indeed been the case: GDP shrank by 0.7 percent in the first quarter. One likely explanation for this discrepancy is the combination of a very low labor participation rate and an unusually high U-6 unemployment rate. U-6 measures those who are currently working part time but would prefer to be working full time. While there have been real gains in the national labor market recently, they might not be as robust as they appear at first glance, indicating the need for continued improvement in the labor market.

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National Consumer Confidence Index at 95.4 points

U.S. Consumer Confidence Index

The U.S. Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) increased 1.1 points in May. The Index currently stands at 95.4 points, up from 94.3 in April. The Present Situation Index, the sub-index of the CCI that measures how consumers feel about current economic conditions, currently sits at 108.1—up 3.0 points from its level last month. The Expectations Index, the sub-index of the CCI that measures how consumers feel about economic conditions six months from now, decreased 0.2 points from April to May and currently sits at 86.9.

Sentiment regarding current conditions improved in May as more people stated that jobs in their area are plentiful—20.7 percent compared to 19.0 percent last month. In the same vein, however, those who claim jobs in their area are “hard to get” also rose—from 25.9 percent to 27.3 percent. Consumers aren’t necessarily more positive about business conditions in their area, but they are less negative. Those who say business conditions are “good” edged down from 25.5 percent to 25.2 percent, but fewer people said business conditions in their area were “bad”—17.4 percent in contrast to 19.2 percent last month.

Consumers overall are less optimistic about future conditions. A slightly higher percentage of consumers expect business conditions to improve over the next six months—15.6 percent in May compared to 15.4 percent in April. However, more consumers also expect business conditions to worsen—10.8 percent in May compared to 9.1 percent in April. Consumers are optimistic about the job market: 14.6 percent anticipate more jobs six months from now, which is up 0.8 percent from last month. Expectations for income growth over the next six months remain unchanged, with 17.4 percent expecting an increase in income.

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Idaho CoreLogic Home Price Index up 4.6% National CoreLogic Home Price Index up 6.8%

Housing Market

The housing market made progress on the road to full recovery as housing prices increased 0.1 percent in Idaho and 2.7 percent nationally from March to April, according to the CoreLogic Home Price Index. This represented a 4.6-percent increase compared to April 2014 for Idaho and a 6.8-percent year-over-year increase for national home prices. In Idaho, home prices are still 15.0 percent below their May 2007 peak and home prices nationally are still 9.0 percent below their pre-recession high.

According to a report from the Commerce Department, new home prices rose 4.1 percent nationally in April to reach a median price of $297,300. This was a turnaround from the previous three months, which saw slight declines in the median price for new homes. Why the sudden increase in home prices? It might have to do with a rapid increase in demand finally outstripping the available supply of new homes. While homebuilders have started construction of 7.6 percent more homes in the first quarter of this year than they did last year, 23.7 percent more new homes have been sold this year when comparing the same time periods. New building represents welcome economic activity: it should contribute not only to housing recovery, but also to the broader economic recovery.

Read more Read more
cityscape silhouette montage

Common Core: Maintaining a Globally Competitive Workforce

To build a family-sustaining career in the rapidly-changing global marketplace, our children will need vastly different skills than were required even just a decade ago. One of the most effective ways to improve the relevance and depth of what our students know and what they are capable of doing is by implementing the Common Core State Standards. Developed by a broad, national coalition of higher education experts, business leaders, school administrators, and teachers, these standards encourage deeper, more effectual learning. Specifically, instead of focusing on rote memorization of information, teachers build students’ abilities to analyze, think critically, and apply skills to real world problems.

The transition—as with any significant cultural change—has been difficult. Inherent transitional challenges have been exacerbated by the simultaneous reduction in professional development budgets. Teachers have been asked to fundamentally alter their teaching methods, but often have not been given the necessary training or tools to support such change. Similarly, many parents feel lost helping their children complete assignments at home as concepts are being taught differently.

The Common Core State Standards have also been accompanied with more lengthy and difficult assessments. Most states have experienced a temporary decrease in scores, to be expected with an increase in test complexity.

But the new assessments are more complex because they are designed to measure higher-level skills and to close the gap between state and international proficiency standards. In Utah, where the sophisticated SAGE exam was developed, the assessments actually engage and teach students while simultaneously measuring their understanding. In Kentucky, where assessment scores dropped in year one of Common Core implementation, students’ college readiness levels increased a whopping 15 percent by year three.

Early adopters of Common Core Standards have shown that with sustained effort, student learning will improve and students will have greater ability to compete in the global job market. But requisite to the success of these efforts is significant investment in professional development for teachers. It is imperative that we equip our teachers with the strategies, resources, and methods they need to teach new skills in the manner today’s generation best learns. We must also equip parents with the tools they need to assist their children in learning challenging concepts. Students have shown that they are capable of complex learning when they are well supported by parents and teachers.

With income inequality expanding at an alarming rate in the United States, effective education, more than any other public effort, can help close this disconcerting income disparity by engendering increased capabilities and enhancing meaningful opportunities for willing workers. Common Core State Standards are just one crucial mechanism in improving student learning and paving the path to sustained social and economic prosperity.

To maintain the American workforce’s leadership in the global market, we must measurably improve what our graduates know and what they are capable of doing. The Common Core State Standards and their accompanying assessments are a positive step forward in preparing students for the demands of today’s global workforce.

Read more Read more
ballet dancer leaping in air

Boise Arts

When it comes to moving a family, business incentives aren’t always sufficient to motivate people to pack their belongings and relocate. A city’s cultural and recreational offerings typically play a major role in attracting new residents. Living in Boise promises both outdoor adventure and city perks: residents can catch a fish in the morning, hike a trail in the afternoon, and attend the ballet in the evening.

Boise also boasts a diverse arts and cultural community. Some of the major events, festivals, and cultural venues in Boise include Ballet Idaho, Broadway in Boise, Boise Philharmonic, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Trey McIntyre Project (International Dance Company), Boise Art Museum, and Opera Idaho. Boise’s Bogus Basin Mountain ski resort is located 17 minutes from downtown and offers daytime and lighted night skiing. In addition, food and drink locations throughout the Boise Valley are top-notch.

As newcomers move to Boise, existing art and cultural offerings will expand and improve for current residents as well. Growth in Boise brings greater opportunity and variety to the city, and improves both local and state economies.

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This page was last modified on Thu Jul 30 13:52:40 MDT 2015