Important Details
null

Consumer Confidence

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index decreased 1.2 points to 110.3 in July. The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index decreased 0.1 point to 97.3 in the same period.

Housing Market

In June, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Utah, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-overyear increase of 7.9%. Nationally, the HPI increased 5.7% during the same period.

Inflation

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Price Index increased 0.6% from May to June for a trailing 12-month inflation of 0.7%. In the same period, the U.S. CPI increased 0.3% for a trailing 12-month inflation of 1.0%.

Job Report

Utah’s unemployment rate increased 0.2 percentage point to 4.0% in June, and the national unemployment rate increased 0.2 percentage point to 4.9%.

September 2016

Printer Friendly

Subscribe to The Current



Submit

The latest employment, housing and other trends

See the Economic Snapshot

Randy Shumway January 2015

Utah Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

“As kids arrive in school with new backpacks, clothes, and supplies, our national and local economies stand a bit taller.”

With cooler temperatures and changing leaves, autumn signals the beginning of a new school year. If you’re the parent of a 4- to 21-year-old son or daughter, you probably just spent more money than you’d like to think about in an effort to equip them with backpacks, textbooks, supplies, and clothes for the next nine months. While shopping may have tested your wallet and your patience, you can feel good knowing that your purchases boost the local and state economy. Second only to the holiday season, back-to-school purchases fuel significant consumer retail spending across the nation.

For each major retail season, the National Retail Federation surveys annual spending patterns. While official numbers have not yet been released for back-to-school 2016, the survey found that Americans planned to spend a total of $75.8 billion on supplies this year—a big jump from last year’s $68 billion. Included in the $75.8 billion is clothing and accessories, electronics, shoes, and school supplies like notebooks and pencils. Back-to-school spending typically goes in two-year cycles, with a large stock-up year followed by a smaller make-do year where supplies from the previous school year are recycled and reused. This year is considered a stock-up year: though families still shopped for bargains, they also spent more money on supplies that they hope will last. Parents and guardians slightly mitigated the effects of higher spending by starting earlier—fully one to two months before the beginning of school.

While goods in Utah may be priced slightly lower than the national average, Utahns spend a similar amount of money overall on school supplies. Many teachers provide parents with a list of supplies that children need to bring to school, and larger average family sizes in Utah drive up overall spending. The top two spending categories for K-12 students nationally were clothing, at an average of $235.39 per family, and electronics, at $204.06 per family. For returning college students, these two spending categories were reversed. In addition, parents purchase cell phone plans for their kids and sign them up for extracurricular activities, which expands back-to-school spending.

In Utah there are programs that help parents obtain the school supplies they need if they aren’t able to purchase them. One such program is United Way’s Stuff-the-Bus program in which anyone can donate school supplies that eventually equip over 11,000 students. Volunteers get together on a specified day to pack the school supplies into book bags that are then delivered to nearly 30 locations.

Spending of all kinds helps improve Utah’s economy, particularly when shoppers support local businesses. Retailers in Utah depend on back-to-school spending—both in-store and online—to boost revenue, support jobs, and make way for holiday inventory. As kids arrive in school with new backpacks, clothes, and supplies, our national and local economies stand a bit taller.

Read more Read more
Passenger train traveling through the countryside

Short-Term U.S. Outlook

United States gross domestic product (GDP) increased approximately 1.2 percent during the second quarter of 2016 according to the advance estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in early August. While second-quarter growth was higher than the 0.8 percent first-quarter growth, it was still lower than many economists’ predictions of 2.6 percent. The information was released shortly after the European Union reported similar sluggish performance—an annual rise of 1.6-percent growth in the second quarter.

As in quarters past, consumer spending drove the increase in growth. Consumer spending increased at an impressive 4.2-percent rate, which was the fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2014. Consumer spending makes up more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. While such a high growth rate in consumer spending is likely unsustainable long term, it is expected to continue through the rest of the year in connection with the improving labor market and rising house prices.

Slower-than-expected GDP growth occurred in part because inventories fell for the first time since 2011. On a positive note, lower second quarter inventories may contribute to greater output in quarters three and four as businesses and manufacturers re-stock. Business spending contracted for the third consecutive quarter, dampened by lower oil prices. Businesses may be more cautious with spending as a result of uncertain global demand and the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Government spending decreased in the second quarter after strong increases in the first quarter.

Despite GDP growth and a seemingly-healthy labor market, some economists remain concerned that growth continues forward at a relatively sluggish pace. There are several theories for why the economic bounce-back has moved forward slowly. Some say that there has been a decline in innovation, that spending is low, that too much regulation has hurt small businesses, or that companies are under-investing. Others say that government debt is bogging down the economy, or that changing demographics are shrinking the working class and straining social programs like Medicare. Regardless, the economy does continue to inch forward—slowly but steadily.

Long-Term U.S. Outlook

Economic growth worldwide continues to be sluggish, and U.S. growth is tied to the economies of its trade partners. Take Japan as a prime example. At the beginning of August, Japanese President Shinzo Abe introduced a massive new stimulus package to encourage spending. Japan’s government debt is currently larger than that of any other country when compared to the relative size of its economy. Output has been shrinking consistently, so the hope is that increased spending will make Japan financially more stable in the future.

The most recent stimulus involved an investment of 28 trillion yen ($274 billion) in social programs and infrastructure, including the construction of a high-speed magnetic levitation train between Tokyo and Osaka. The government expects the stimulus to increase gross domestic product by about 1.3 percent, but there has been no clear timetable for rolling it out or expecting the growth to occur. The stimulus assumes that Japanese citizens will spend more money and jumpstart the economy.

Consumer spending contributes a great deal to any economy, but if any exogenous shocks dampen that spending, it is possible that the newest stimulus package will once again yield a disappointing return on investment. As the American economy is heavily tied to the economic health of its trade partners, like Japan, global economies will continue to affect the long-term U.S. economic outlook.

Read more Read more
US Consumer Price Index increased 0.3% Zions Bank Consumer Price Index rose 0.6%

Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index

The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.6 percent from May to June on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. The index has increased 0.7 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 0.3 percent from May to June, and rose 1.0 percent over the last year.

Transportation prices were the primary driver of the increase in Utah’s June CPI, rising 3.1 percent from the month before with swelling airfare rates and vehicle prices. Crude oil prices remained mostly unchanged in June, but education and communication prices jumped 1.5 percent as phone and internet rates increased.

No single sector’s prices declined by more than half a percent in June. However, recreation prices saw the greatest declines, falling a modest 0.5 percent as prices for audio equipment and pet products dropped. Housing prices decreased 0.2 percent from May to June thanks to reduced hotel and motel rates.

Read more Read more
National Unemployment rate rose to 4.9% Idaho Unemployment rate remains at 3.7%

Labor Market

The unemployment rate in Utah increased two-tenths of a percent to 4.0 percent from May to June. The state’s year-over-year growth in total employment increased from 3.2 percent in May to 3.5 percent in June. Compared to a year ago, Utah has added 48,500 jobs to the economy, and the current employment level registers at 1,427,800. The United States’ unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.9 percent.

Nine of ten sectors measured posted net job increases this month, while the natural resources and mining industry decreased by 1,000 positions. The largest employment increases occurred in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector. Approximately 22 percent of Utah jobs are supported by international business. While many states run a trade deficit, Utah typically trades at a $4 billion surplus every year, meaning trade has a significant positive impact on both Utah’s labor market and its overall economy.

Read more Read more
Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index dropped 1.2 points US Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 97.3 points

Utah Consumer Attitude Index

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index (CAI) fell 1.2 points to 110.3 in July. This decrease was driven primarily by a drop in confidence in both present and future economic situations. The overall CAI currently sits 5.0 points higher than its level 12 months ago. In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index® decreased 0.1 point from June to July and currently sits at 97.3.

Expectations for the next six months tumbled 0.9 points in July due to a slightly more negative outlook on employment opportunities. Assessing the labor market, 13 percent of Utahns think there will be fewer jobs available in their area six months from now—a 2-percent increase since last month. Utahns are also slightly less confident in their job security, as 78 percent believe they are unlikely to lose a job they want to keep, compared to 80 percent last month. Twenty-two percent of Utahns believe the U.S. economy will improve during the next 12 months—a 2-percent decline since last month. Income expectations remained fairly steady, with 33 percent of Utahns expecting their household income to be greater six months from now, representing little change from last month. Compared to June, more Utahns think business conditions in their area will be better in six months—up from 28 percent to 29 percent in July.

The Present Situation Index, the sub-index of the CAI that measures how consumers feel about current economic conditions, has fallen 1.6 points since last month but remains 4.5 points higher than it was this time last year. Utahns believe the general business environment is less favorable compared to last month, with 6 percent of Utahns rating general business conditions in their area as bad—a 1-percent increase from last month. Fifty-three percent of Utahns describe available jobs in their area as plentiful, marking a 3-percent increase since last month, and a 7-percent increase since last year.

Read more Read more
Utah CoreLogic Home Price Index increased 7.9% National CoreLogic Home Price Index increased to 5.7%

Housing Market

Home prices rose slightly both across the nation and in Utah in June. Utah’s home prices increased 1.6 percent from May to June, and have grown 7.9 percent since June 2015. Nationally, home prices increased 1.1 percent month over month and 5.7 percent year over year. National home prices for single-family homes, including distressed sales, are forecasted to rise by 0.6 percent in July 2016, and by 5.3 percent by July 2017.

Although home prices remain 6.7 percent below peak values recorded in April 2006, the U.S. has experienced 53 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 November 2017. In Utah, home prices are forecasted to increase 0.7 percent this month and 5.3 percent in the next year. A new report from the Salt Lake Board of Realtors indicated that supplies are low, which is pushing prices up. On average, homes remain on the market for 37 days in Salt Lake County, compared to 59 days last year, indicating that housing prices will continue to be sustained by strong demand.

Read more Read more
Mom helps her young daughter use a laptop computer

Getting Started Early

Training tomorrow’s innovators and leaders starts early in Utah. In addition to purchasing supplies, parents are preparing children academically and cognitively to succeed in school. To support students’ future academic success, Utah has developed a program to help families start early childhood education at home.

Designed for four-year-olds, UPSTART is an online kindergarten-readiness program. Using adaptive computer-based learning, this program tailors lessons based on how a child responds to the curriculum, and creates a personalized learning path. Participating children spend at least 15 minutes a day, five days a week using the program. As an in-home program that progresses at the child’s own pace and in the child’s own learning style, UPSTART offers a flexible, sustainable path for early education.

Recently, UPSTART received a $2-million grant, which gives the program enough funding to expand to 10,000 students, or approximately 20 percent of pre-kindergarteners in Utah. At the end of July, only 7,500 students were signed up to participate in UPSTART. Although the program is open to everyone, leaders prioritize low-income families and English language learners.

Programs like UPSTART boost early education by enabling parents to help today’s students become competitive in tomorrow’s work force. Early childhood education has been shown to be a vital contributor to overall academic success over time. As more programs like UPSTART are developed, greater numbers of children across the state will have access to online kindergarten readiness.

Read more Read more
Long line of cars bumper to bumper in heavy traffic

Addressing Our Aging Roads

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” — Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Bridging the desert southwest and the intermountain west, I-15 links several key transcontinental east-west corridors. Although I-15 has been giving drivers headaches over traffic construction for several years, the fact that it exists and anyone can drive it from Canada in the north to Mexico in the south is a testament to Eisenhower’s enduring presidential legacy. Fully half of America’s current highway systems have their origins in Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.

Eisenhower’s investment is still delivering solid returns: America’s roads boost significant economic growth and social mobility. By dramatically expediting and substantially reducing costs for the transportation of goods, the freeway system changed the way we do business—enabling national supply chains to efficiently make and deliver products. Good, efficient roads make commuting feasible, thereby widening the pool of potential employees and employers. By connecting small towns with larger cities, freeways improve Americans’ access to education, healthcare, and employment. Moreover, infrastructure development is itself a hotspot for jobs, with more than 14 million people working in related fields. And although it may seem quaint, domestic leisure travel in the U.S actually has a $650 billion annual impact on our economy, and 9 out of 10 leisure trips in the United States are taken by automobile. While today we may take it for granted, much of our modern capacity to travel in our cars to visit more distant places across the country has been made possible thanks to Eisenhower’s grand endeavor.

In spite of these benefits, infrastructure spending slowed in the late 60s, and has since declined to a 30-year low in 2014. As a percentage of GDP, federal spending on infrastructure has been cut in half over the past 30 years, and our roads are paying the price: the Federal Highway Administration’s most recent survey points out that almost 20 percent of U.S. roads are in poor condition. Further, congestion on highways costs us over $100 billion every year in wasted time and fuel. Additional costs and other transportation-related inefficiencies are making American businesses less competitive than they could be otherwise. Once a pioneer in road infrastructure, the United States now ranks 14th in the world for quality of roads.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that roads, bridges, and transit are in serious need of $1.4 trillion in additional funding—even after Congress allocated $305 billion towards highways at the end of last year via the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Contrary to its name, FAST required years of Congressional debate and was the first long-term national transportation funding bill to pass in more than a decade. Based on the herculean effort required to bring FAST to the finish line, the prospect of additional federal funding is almost certainly doomed to languish in Congress, leaving the responsibility to revitalize roads to the states (which many argue is a state’s responsibility anyhow).

Although some states, still reeling from the Great Recession, are hesitant to take on debt to finance infrastructure projects, investment in our current and future infrastructure is often a smart long-term decision. It is feasible: while the current recovery progress is slower than ideal, total state and local debt as a share of the overall economy are below pre-recession levels. Furthermore, with interest rates still as low as they are, states have cheap access to capital necessary for financing infrastructure. And the returns are typically solid: the Congressional Budget Office estimates $1.00–2.50 of GDP growth for every dollar invested in infrastructure.

Utah subscribes to the philosophy that “good roads cost less.” Although many roads in Utah are over 50 years old, most have received surface treatment within the last 10 years. This maintenance helps prolong surface life, but new roads are needed. In the last 25 years, Utah’s population has increased by 60 percent, whereas new lane miles have increased by only 6 percent. Beyond making morning commutes a little less sluggish, additional infrastructure investment in this area in particular is necessary to sustain Utah’s booming economic and population growth.

Our country’s highways effectively connect us with work, education, healthcare, and cultural diversity across the nation. Although no one enjoys the traffic delays or expense associated with construction, maintaining these roads is our responsible nod to the past and our gift to future residents. Significant long-term advantages justify the short-term inconveniences.

Read more Read more

Consumer Confidence

The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® decreased 0.1 point to 97.3 in July. The Present Situation Index increased 1.7 points to 118.3, and the Expectations Index decreased 1.3 points to 83.3

Housing Market

In June, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Idaho, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 6.2%. Nationally, the HPI increased 5.7% during the same period.

Inflation

The U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.3% from May to June. Year over year, the index increased 1.0%, which is below the Federal Reserve’s target annual inflation pace of 2%.

Job Report

Idaho’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7% in June, and the national unemployment rate increased 0.2 percentage point to 4.9% in June.

September 2016

Printer Friendly

Subscribe to The Current



Submit

The latest employment, housing and other trends

See the Economic Snapshot

Randy Shumway January 2015

Idaho Economic Outlook

Randy Shumway, Zions Bank Economic Advisor

“Spending of all kinds helps improve Idaho’s economy, particularly when shoppers support local businesses.”

With cooler temperatures and changing leaves, autumn signals the beginning of a new school year. If you’re the parent of a 4- to 21-year-old son or daughter, you probably just spent more money than you’d like to think about in an effort to equip them with backpacks, textbooks, supplies, and clothes for the next nine months. While shopping may have tested your wallet and your patience, you can feel good knowing that your purchases boost the local and state economy. Second only to the holiday season in terms of overall retail sales, back-to-school purchases fuel significant consumer retail spending across the nation.

For each major retail season, the National Retail Federation surveys annual spending patterns. While official numbers have not yet been released for back-to-school 2016, the survey found that Americans planned to spend a total of $75.8 billion on supplies this year—a big jump from last year’s $68 billion. Included in the $75.8 billion are clothing and accessories, electronics, shoes, and school supplies like notebooks and pencils. Back-to-school spending typically goes in two-year cycles, with a large stock-up year followed by a smaller make-do year where supplies from the previous school year are recycled and reused. This year is considered a stock-up year: though families still shopped for bargains, they also spent more money on supplies that they hope will last. Parents and guardians slightly mitigated the effects of higher spending by starting earlier—fully one to two months before the beginning of school.

In Idaho, teachers suggest supplies for children to bring. In addition to shopping for these supplies, parents purchase cell phone plans for their kids and sign them up for extracurricular activities, which expands back-to-school spending. The top two spending categories for K-12 students nationally were clothing, at an average of $235.39 per family, and electronics, at $204.06 per family. For returning college students, these two spending categories were reversed.

While parents purchase school supplies to equip students for the school year, other purchases help Idaho schools directly, one of which is lottery purchases. The 2016 lottery raised nearly $31 million for the State Department of Education. Lottery proceeds allow schools to finance one-time building needs, such as improvements to libraries or safety enhancements to drop-off zones in school parking lots.

Spending of all kinds helps improve Idaho’s economy, particularly when shoppers support local businesses. Retailers in Idaho depend on back-to-school spending—both in-store and online—to boost revenue, support jobs, and make way for holiday inventory. As kids arrive in school with new backpacks, clothes, and supplies, our national and local economies stand a bit taller.

Read more Read more
Passenger train traveling through the countryside

Short-term U.S. Outlook

United States gross domestic product (GDP) increased approximately 1.2 percent during the second quarter of 2016 according to the advance estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in early August. While second-quarter growth was higher than the 0.8 percent first-quarter growth, it was still lower than many economists’ predictions of 2.6 percent. The information was released shortly after the European Union reported similar sluggish performance—an annual rise of 1.6-percent growth in the second quarter.

As in quarters past, consumer spending drove the increase in growth. Consumer spending increased at an impressive 4.2-percent rate, which was the fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2014. Consumer spending makes up more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. While such a high growth rate in consumer spending is likely unsustainable long term, it is expected to continue through the rest of the year in connection with the improving labor market and rising house prices.

Slower-than-expected GDP growth occurred in part because inventories fell for the first time since 2011. On a positive note, lower second quarter inventories may contribute to greater output in quarters three and four as businesses and manufacturers re-stock. Business spending contracted for the third consecutive quarter, dampened by lower oil prices. Businesses may be more cautious with spending as a result of uncertain global demand and the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Government spending decreased in the second quarter after strong increases in the first quarter.

Despite GDP growth and a seemingly-healthy labor market, some economists remain concerned that growth continues forward at a relatively sluggish pace. There are several theories for why the economic bounce-back has moved forward slowly. Some say that there has been a decline in innovation, that spending is low, that too much regulation has hurt small businesses, or that companies are under-investing. Others say that government debt is bogging down the economy, or that changing demographics are shrinking the working class and straining social programs like Medicare. Regardless, the economy does continue to inch forward—slowly but steadily.

Long-Term U.S. Outlook

Economic growth worldwide continues to be sluggish, and U.S. growth is tied to the economies of its trade partners. Take Japan as a prime example. At the beginning of August, Japanese President Shinzo Abe introduced a massive new stimulus package to encourage spending. Japan’s government debt is currently larger than that of any other country when compared to the relative size of its economy. Output has been shrinking consistently, so the hope is that increased spending will make Japan financially more stable in the future.

The most recent stimulus involved an investment of 28 trillion yen ($274 billion) in social programs and infrastructure, including the construction of a high-speed magnetic levitation train between Tokyo and Osaka. The government expects the stimulus to increase gross domestic product by about 1.3 percent, but there has been no clear timetable for rolling it out or expecting the growth to occur. The stimulus assumes that Japanese citizens will spend more money and jumpstart the economy.

Consumer spending contributes a great deal to any economy, but if any exogenous shocks dampen that spending, it is possible that the newest stimulus package will once again yield a disappointing return on investment. As the American economy is heavily tied to the economic health of its trade partners, like Japan, global economies will continue to affect the long-term U.S. economic outlook.

Read more Read more
US Consumer Price Index increased 0.3%

U.S. Consumer Price Index

The national Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.3 percent from May to June on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. The national CPI has increased 1.0 percent over the last year, which is below the Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target of 2 percent.

The increase in the all items index was driven by increases in the indexes for energy and all items less food and energy. The energy index rose 1.3 percent, primarily due to a 3.3-percent increase in the gasoline index. The energy index has risen for four consecutive months. The index for all items less food and energy, a less-volatile measurement of prices, increased 0.2 percent this month.

Meanwhile, the food index declined 0.1 percent as the food at home index declined 0.3 percent. The food at home index has declined 1.3 percent over the last 12 months, marking the largest 12-month decline since February 2010.

Read more Read more
National Unemployment rate rose to 4.9% Idaho Unemployment rate remains at 3.7%

Labor Market

Idaho’s unemployment rate remained mostly unchanged at 3.7 percent in June for the third consecutive month. Idaho’s nonfarm payrolls increased by two-tenths of a percent this month, as gains in trade, transportation and utilities, professional and business services, education and health services, and government were nearly offset by weaker performance in mining and logging, construction, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and other services. The state’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment grew 2.8 percent since last year. The United States’ unemployment rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.9 percent.

Nearly 20 percent of June’s online job postings were classified by department analysts as “hard-to-fill” jobs. Access to skilled workers is a common difficulty faced by Idaho businesses. However, according to the Idaho Department of Labor, around 77 percent of in-state residency students who graduated from a public Idaho college or university between 2010 and 2014 continued to work in Idaho jobs a year after graduation. Idaho’s retention of its college graduates indicates a promising trend for employers looking to fill skilled positions.

Read more Read more
US Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 97.3 points

U.S. Consumer Confidence Index

The Conference Board’s U.S. Consumer Confidence Index remained mostly unchanged in July, declining 0.1 point to 97.3. The Present Situation Index, which measures sentiment about the current state of the economy, increased from 116.6 to 118.3, while the Expectations Index decreased from 84.6 to 83.3, indicating slightly weaker confidence in the state of the economy six months out.

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was slightly more favorable: the percentage of consumers who felt business conditions were “good” increased from 26.8 percent in June to 28.1 percent in July. However, those stating current business conditions were “bad” also increased—up from 18.3 percent to 19.0 percent. Opinions of the labor market were mostly unchanged, with those claiming jobs are “plentiful” declining from 23.2 percent to 23.0 percent, and those claiming jobs are “hard to get” also decreasing from 23.7 percent to 22.3 percent.

Meanwhile, consumers are less optimistic about the future, as indicated by the rising percentage of consumers who expect business conditions to worsen—up from 11.2 percent to 12.3 percent this month. Perspectives about the job market are slightly more favorable—those who anticipate fewer jobs in the months ahead decreased from 17.7 percent to 17.0 percent.

Read more Read more
Idaho CoreLogic Home Price Index rose 6.2% National CoreLogic Home Price Index increased to 5.7%

Housing Market

Home prices continued to rise in June across the nation and in Idaho. Idaho’s home prices increased 0.8 percent from May to June, and have risen 6.2 percent since June 2015. Nationally, home prices increased 1.1 percent month over month and 5.7 percent year over year. National home prices for single-family homes, including distressed sales, are forecasted to rise by 0.6 percent in July 2016, and by 5.3 percent by July 2017.

Although home prices remain 6.7 percent below peak values recorded in April 2006, the U.S. has experienced 53 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, including distressed sales, thereby indicating continued progress toward a full recovery. A new peak level in home prices is expected to be reached in November 2017. In Idaho, home prices are forecasted to increase 0.8 percent this month and 6.2 percent in the next year. The Idaho Division of Financial Management forecasts that housing starts will grow at a rate of 11.1 percent in the next year, compared with the national rate of 8.2 percent. In spite of a growing number of housing starts, inventories remain low compared to the number of homebuyers in Idaho, resulting in sustained housing price increases.

Read more Read more
Mom helps her young daughter use a laptop computer

Getting Started Early

While purchasing school supplies is a necessary part of getting a child ready for the school year, academics are obviously much more important. Many Idaho schools are focusing on getting students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and encouraging them to go into STEM fields upon graduation.

In order to promote and raise awareness for STEM programs, Idaho formed the FIRST Idaho Coalition. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” and is comprised of the Idaho AfterSchool Network, Boise State’s Institute for STEM & Diversity Initiatives, University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development, and a number of other organizations.

FIRST provides grants to increase access to its programs for underrepresented and underserved students in the state, and it helps communities develop new approaches to promoting STEM fields. The FIRST Idaho Coalition is planning to establish a FIRST team in every county in Idaho. The county teams will provide training, support, and funds to FIRST coaches.

Recognizing that STEM professionals are in demand, FIRST leaders work to pique students’ interest in such fields as they start choosing their own classes in junior high and high school. The more science and technology classes students have in their background, the better prepared they will be to select a related field when they are in college. FIRST is particularly focused on helping students develop problem-solving skills and other skills that will be needed in the workforce. As students gravitate toward STEM training and employment, they will be equipped to earn better wages and contribute to the scientific community.

Read more Read more
Long line of cars bumper to bumper in heavy traffic

Addressing Our Aging Roads

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” — Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Bridging the desert southwest and the intermountain west, I-15 links several key transcontinental east-west corridors. Although I-15 has been giving drivers headaches over traffic construction for several years, the fact that it exists and anyone can drive it from Canada in the north to Mexico in the south is a testament to Eisenhower’s enduring presidential legacy. Fully half of America’s current highway systems have their origins in Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.

Eisenhower’s investment is still delivering solid returns: America’s roads boost significant economic growth and social mobility. By dramatically expediting and substantially reducing costs for the transportation of goods, the freeway system changed the way we do business—enabling national supply chains to efficiently make and deliver products. Good, efficient roads make commuting feasible, thereby widening the pool of potential employees and employers. By connecting small towns with larger cities, freeways improve Americans’ access to education, healthcare, and employment. Moreover, infrastructure development is itself a hotspot for jobs, with more than 14 million people working in related fields. And although it may seem quaint, domestic leisure travel in the U.S actually has a $650 billion annual impact on our economy, and 9 out of 10 leisure trips in the United States are taken by automobile. While today we may take it for granted, much of our modern capacity to travel in our cars to visit more distant places across the country has been made possible thanks to Eisenhower’s grand endeavor.

In spite of these benefits, infrastructure spending slowed in the late 60s, and has since declined to a 30-year low in 2014. As a percentage of GDP, federal spending on infrastructure has been cut in half over the past 30 years, and our roads are paying the price: the Federal Highway Administration’s most recent survey points out that almost 20 percent of U.S. roads are in poor condition. Further, congestion on highways costs us over $100 billion every year in wasted time and fuel. Additional costs and other transportation-related inefficiencies are making American businesses less competitive than they could be otherwise. Once a pioneer in road infrastructure, the United States now ranks 14th in the world for quality of roads.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that roads, bridges, and transit are in serious need of $1.4 trillion in additional funding—even after Congress allocated $305 billion towards highways at the end of last year via the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Contrary to its name, FAST required years of Congressional debate and was the first long-term national transportation funding bill to pass in more than a decade. Based on the herculean effort required to bring FAST to the finish line, the prospect of additional federal funding is almost certainly doomed to languish in Congress, leaving the responsibility to revitalize roads to the states (which many argue is a state’s responsibility anyhow).

Although some states, still reeling from the Great Recession, are hesitant to take on debt to finance infrastructure projects, investment in our current and future infrastructure is often a smart long-term decision. It is feasible: while the current recovery progress is slower than ideal, total state and local debt as a share of the overall economy are below pre-recession levels. Furthermore, with interest rates still as low as they are, states have cheap access to capital necessary for financing infrastructure. And the returns are typically solid: the Congressional Budget Office estimates $1.00–2.50 of GDP growth for every dollar invested in infrastructure.

Although Idaho’s relatively-low traffic volume doesn’t create undue congestion, road quality is a big concern: about 45 percent of roads in the state are in poor or mediocre condition. Fortunately, over the last ten years, the state has invested over $850 million in highway improvements to increase traffic capacity and improve safety. While this has already delivered returns for business endeavors and local way of life, sustained infrastructure spending will be required to keep up with Idaho’s growing economy and population.

Our country’s highways effectively connect us with work, education, healthcare, and cultural diversity across the nation. Although no one enjoys the traffic delays or expense associated with construction, maintaining these roads is our responsible nod to the past and our gift to future residents. Significant long-term advantages justify the short-term inconveniences.

Read more Read more

Rate this page:


Please don't submit personal information, including account numbers. For Customer Service, visit the Contact Us page.


SUBMIT

Thank you for your submission.

Feedback

Thank you for visiting our site today.

Please take a 2 to 3 minute survey and help us improve your online experience.

Survey Hide X
This page was last modified on Fri Sep 30 12:55:40 MDT 2016