What middle class?

From the New York Post:

New York City’s endangered middle class in exodus, analysts say

New York City’s shrinking middle class is now in full retreat, as masses of our most endangered population depart the city in numbers not seen since the Depression, according to analysts.

After decades of sharp income erosion in the face of relentless taxes, escalating living costs and wage reductions through technological changes, the full extent of this shocking exodus is laid bare in the latest US Census data.

That shows the city is losing 100 residents each day — with departures exceeding new arrivals.

New York City’s middle class comprises 48 percent of city residents, with median annual incomes between $30,000 and $60,000.

Thirty-one percent make lower incomes, and the ranks of the rich account for 21 percent of New York City residents.

By contrast, in the early 1970s, about 61 percent of New Yorkers were ensconced in the middle class; today, fewer than half are.

For example, of the estimated 175,000 net new private-sector jobs that have been created in New York City since 2017, fewer than 20 percent are paying middle- class salaries, Earle notes.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, NYC | 24 Comments

The New Manhattan

From Crains:

Mounting Manhattan inventory pulls down home prices

Prospective Manhattan home buyers had plenty of options in November, and their wallets were thankful for it.

The average price of condos, co-ops, townhouses and single-family homes on the market dropped 3.3 percent from a year earlier to $1.1 million, according to the November 2018 StreetEasy Market Reports released Wednesday. That’s the sharpest year-on-year decline since February 2009 and takes the price almost to the level of October 2015.

Inventory has been rising for months, and about 1,400 new homes hit the market in November, an 18 percent increase from the year before, the second-biggest increase since the financial crisis. The biggest increase was in the previous month, when homes on the market jumped by 21 percent.

“The combination of a ton of new homes on the market and potential buyers holding out for better deals has shifted the market dynamic in Manhattan further in favor of buyers,” StreetEasy Senior Economist Grant Long wrote in a company blog post Wednesday.

Sales volume rose 2.8 percent in November—unusual for Autumn, when they tend to slow. That “should come as encouraging news to those looking to sell their homes, but it’s too early to tell whether this will be an enduring trend,” Long said.

Sales prices gained in Brooklyn and Queens. In Brooklyn, they rose 1.6 percent from a year earlier and in Queens, 4.8 percent, helped by Amazon.com Inc.’s decision to place a new office campus in the neighborhood of Long Island City.

Posted in Gold Coast, NYC | 92 Comments

NY & CT lose population, NJ gains

From the Census Department:

Nevada and Idaho Are the Nation’s Fastest-Growing States

he U.S. population grew by 0.6 percent and Nevada and Idaho were the nation’s fastest-growing states between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018. Both states’ populations increased by about 2.1 percent in the last year alone. Following Nevada and Idaho for the largest percentage increases in population were Utah (1.9 percent), Arizona (1.7 percent), and Florida and Washington (1.5 percent each).

Washington, D.C., reached a population of 702,455 in July 2018, surpassing 700,000 for the first time since 1975, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s national and state population estimates released today. The change is due primarily to an influx of people from other parts of the country that began early in the decade. While the increase has begun to slow, the District of Columbia still grew by almost 1 percent last year.

Population declines were also common, with losses occurring in nine states and Puerto Rico. The nine states that lost population last year were New York (down 48,510), Illinois (45,116), West Virginia (11,216), Louisiana (10,840), Hawaii (3,712), Mississippi (3,133), Alaska (2,348), Connecticut (1,215) and Wyoming (1,197).

Posted in Demographics, Economics, National Real Estate | 73 Comments

Shiller’s Take

From the NYT:

The Housing Boom Is Already Gigantic. How Long Can It Last?

We are, once again, experiencing one of the greatest housing booms in United States history.

How long this will last and where it is heading next are impossible to know now.

But it is time to take notice: My data shows that this is the United States’ third biggest housing boom in the modern era.

Since February 2012, when the price declines associated with the last financial crisis ended, prices for existing homes in the United States have been rising steadily and enormously. According to the S&P/CoreLogic/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index (which I helped to create) as of September, the prices were 53 percent higher than they were at the bottom of the market in 2012.

That means, on average, a house that sold for, say, $200,000 in 2012 would bring over $300,000 in September.

Even after factoring in Consumer Price Index inflation, real existing home prices were up almost 40 percent during that period. That is a substantial increase in less than seven years.

In fact, based on my data, it amounts to the third strongest national boom in real terms since the Consumer Price Index began in 1913, behind only the explosive run-up in prices that led to the great financial crisis of a decade ago, and one connected with World War II and the great postwar Baby Boom.

It can’t go on forever, of course. But when it will end isn’t knowable. The data can’t tell us when prices will level off, or whether they will plunge catastrophically. All we do know is that prices have been roaring higher at a speed rarely seen in American history.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Housing Bubble, National Real Estate | 96 Comments

End of Trump’s boom?

From Bloomberg:

Americans Turn More Pessimistic on Economy

The number of Americans expecting the U.S. economy to get worse in the next year is at its highest point since 2013, a national NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows.

Overall, 28 percent of Americans said the economy will get better in the next year, while 33 percent predict it will get worse, according to the survey, which was released Sunday. Those numbers were essentially reversed from January, when 35 percent said the economy would get better and 20 percent said it would get worse.

“For the first time in Trump’s presidency, his safety net of a robust economy shows signs of unraveling,” said Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster with Hart Research Associates.

Posted in Economics, Employment, General, National Real Estate | 86 Comments

Not just here?

From CNBC:

Goodbye to bidding wars: Some of the hottest housing markets are falling the hardest

It was just last spring that home buyers in most of the nation were digging ever deeper into their pockets, bracing for a bidding war on whatever property they chose. And now, suddenly, they’re not. Home sales have slowed to a crawl nationally, and it’s not just the winter temperatures. The market’s pulse has become weaker, especially in areas that were hottest just last spring.

Just 32 percent of offers written by Redfin, a real estate brokerage, saw competing bids. That is down from 45 percent in November of last year.

In Seattle, where demand has outstripped supply for years, the drop is more abrupt. More than half of homes a year ago saw bidding wars, while less than a quarter are seeing them now.

Home values in Seattle were the hottest in the nation last spring, up 13 percent annually in April, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index. That gain was down to 8 percent in September, the most recent reading. And supply in Seattle is up 60 percent compared to a year ago, according to Realtor.com.

In Los Angeles, 68 percent of properties for sale saw multiple offers a year ago. That is now down to 38 percent. In Southern California overall, home sales in October were at the slowest pace for that month in seven years, according to CoreLogic.

“Rising prices and mortgage rates have priced out some potential buyers while causing others to conclude that waiting to buy could pay off, especially as listings rise,” said Andrew LePage, a CoreLogic analyst. “For the past three months, sales have fallen year over year in all six counties and, in the last two months, across most major price categories including above $1 million.”

Mortgage rates rose sharply in September, and by October, the average rate on the 30-year fixed was more than a full percentage point higher than a year ago. With home prices already overheated in many major markets, higher rates broke the bank for most buyers.

Inventory jumped in formerly hot markets like San Jose (+123 percent), Seattle (+96.5 percent) and Oakland (+60 percent) but other markets are still seeing drops, like Philadelphia (-24 percent and New Orleans (-19 percent).

Posted in Housing Bubble, National Real Estate | 21 Comments

It’s different now, or is it a different kind of bubble now?

From Bloomberg:

Trouble in Housing? It’s More 1994 Than 2007

Housing market softness in the back half of 2018 has investors and the public wondering how bad things might get. It’s understandable that people would be worried, considering that the last housing downturn led to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But housing market fundamentals in this cycle are nowhere near as risky as they were in the mid-2000s. Real-time data on mortgage applications suggest a milder path. Coincidentally, it looks a lot like 1994.

The economy in 1994 is remembered largely for financial market turmoil brought about by sharp increases in the federal funds rate by the Federal Reserve. During that year, the Fed increased its target rate for lending between financial institutions to 5.5 percent from 3 percent, a 2.5 percent increase in one calendar year. Perhaps not surprisingly, mortgage rates increased sharply as well. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate increased by around 2 percentage points in 1994, ending the year north of 9 percent. New home sales slumped. In December 1993, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new single-family-home sales was 812,000. A year later, in December 1994, it had fallen over 20 percent to 629,000.

The other noteworthy story of the 1994 economy was what happened to the yield curve. Because of the sharp increase in short-term interest rates, the yield curve flattened significantly. The spread between two-year and 10-year Treasury rates at the end of 1993 was 1.58 percent. By the end of 1994 the spread was at 0.15 percent — close to zero, but not quite inverted.

The story in 2018 is similar. While the increase in mortgage rates this year is not as severe as it was in 1994, the housing market is dealing with other headwinds — rising costs from land, labor and materials prices, plus a shortage of inventory after years of building fewer homes than population growth would seem to warrant. An increase of one percentage point in mortgage rates between mid-November 2017 and mid-November 2018 made homes less affordable.

It’s understandable why many fear this is a prelude to another big crash. Home sales have fallen, and inventories are rising. Home price appreciation has slowed, particularly for higher-end homes. The yield curve has flattened, with investors starting to anticipate interest-rate cuts in 2020 and beyond. Prospective buyers see negative stories about the housing market, get nervous, and decide to sit back and see how things go rather than putting in offers. It’s the same thing that happened before the onset of the housing bust and the great recession.

Except we’ve built nowhere near as many homes over the past decade as we did in the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Underwriting standards remain strict, as anyone who has needed financing to buy a home in recent years can attest. Household mortgage debt relative to incomes or gross domestic product continues to fall. Job growth continues, and wage growth is accelerating at a slow pace.

And while it’s still too early to draw any conclusions, mortgage application data in recent weeks is starting to tell a different story. Because of the volatility in financial markets since the beginning of October, interest rates have fallen. The 10-year Treasury rate has fallen more than 0.3 percentage points from a peak of 3.24 percent in early November. Since the middle of November, average 30-year fixed mortgage rates have fallen by around 0.2 percentage points.

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 12 Comments

Another day another tax

From NJ101.5:


Your chances of finding a cheap flight out of Newark Liberty International Airport could soon go down dramatically.

You may want to expand your search to John F. Kennedy or LaGuardia Airports in New York. All three are run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but it’s only Newark flights that are about to be hit by a huge fuel tax.

The loss of cheap flights is just one of the so-called unintended consequences that are feared if state lawmakers give final passage to a bill that expands a bizarre fuel tax to include all the fuel in a plane’s tanks.

Currently, only the jet fuel that is consumed during takeoff and landing is subject to New Jersey’s fuel tax. However, an expansion of that tax is on the verge of final approval. It would cost Newark’s biggest carrier, United Airlines, more than $20 million per year. United accounts for two-thirds of all passengers flying out of Newark, and warned during a legislative hearing this week that passengers would pay the price.
There is a lot not to like, at times, about the way United Airlines does business and treats passengers. Entire websites are dedicated to hating on United. They are, however, a major contributor to Trenton tax collections and the New Jersey economy. A recent study showed the airline contributed $16 billion to the New Jersey economy in 2016 and United customers added $1.6 billion in economic activity.
At the same time, United’s vice president of state and local government affairs, Daniel Lynch, told lawmakers, “We pay over $400 million a year in taxes, rates, charges, and fees … we think that is a significant amount.”

Jill Kaplan, president of the New York/New Jersey region for United Airlines, says the company has made over $2 billion in unsubsidized investments at Newark Airport.

Privately, United officials have told me they see this as punitive, and directed specifically at them. Why else, they ask, would smaller commercial New Jersey airports like Atlantic City and Trenton-Mercer be exempted from the higher fuel taxes? As a last-minute change, lawmakers included an exemption for airports with less than 20,000 flights per year, which includes TTN and ACY.

Will the additional fuel cost be passed on to passengers? Yes. But with 28 million United passengers per year at Newark, it would amount to less than a dollar per ticket.

However, United execs say that’s not the point. Why pay the higher tax if you don’t need to? They have already signaled any growth in flights, services, capital improvement, and job growth will be directed to other airports, like Kennedy and LaGuardia. Said Lynch, “(This tax) will curb growth. It will stop job creation at Newark Airport. It will drive that growth to LaGuardia and JFK. I don’t think that’s a smart economic plan for this state.”

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 103 Comments

Optimistic … but

From NJ101.5:


New Jersey businesses don’t really like much about the state in which they operate, but most expect an uptick in sales and profits in 2019, according to a survey released Thursday.

And, the survey finds, if the Garden State eventually comes around to instituting a $15-per-hour minimum wage, you can expect a spike in prices at a number of spots.

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s 60th Annual Business Outlook Survey took the pulse of nearly 900 member companies.

“Our members are really bullish on their own performance. Basically, the things they can control, they feel very confident about,” NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka told New Jersey 101.5. “But when we ask them about New Jersey’s economy, sadly they don’t feel so bullish.”

Sixty-two percent of businesses believe their sales will rise in 2019, and 9 percent expect a decrease in sales. That differential is better than what was recorded with last year’s survey.

More than three-quarters of respondents said they would provide wage increases in 2019, ranging from 1 to 4.9 percent. Nearly 40 percent expect to increase hiring.

But while 83 percent of businesses rated the performance of the U.S. economy as “excellent” or “good,” only 40 percent gave the same grades to the Garden State.

At least half of respondents said New Jersey is worse in taxes and fees; controlling government spending; controlling healthcare costs; attracting new business; controlling labor costs; and regulatory compliance costs, compared to other states.

New Jersey is at or near the top among all states in tax categories including income, sales, property, corporate and inheritance taxes, the NJBIA report noted.

Concerned with a potential increase in the state’s minimum wage, 66 percent of NJBIA member companies said the move will impact their business; 39 percent said the impact would be significant.

About a third of businesses said they’d raise prices to offset increased costs caused by a hefty hike in the minimum wage. About a quarter indicated they’d reduce staff and/or hours.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 142 Comments

What’s more important, whether people have jobs, or what they get paid?

From NJ Patch:

Approximately 1,000 NJ Jobs Will Be Gone By The New Year

Some of the announcements came before the stock market plummeted on Tuesday, and talk of a possible recession arose. But the sting of about 1,000 layoffs coming to New Jersey will still hurt nonetheless.

New Jersey will have at least 1,311 layoffs within the next two months – 826 of which will come by Jan. 1. Much of the layoffs will happen in retail, where New Jersey has had a number of store closings this year, and in the health care industry.

Gov. Phil Murphy addressed the issue recently when he responded a report from The United Way that said more than 1 million families in New Jersey are “income-constrained” He said the assessment “proves beyond any doubt” the need for efforts to both grow the economy and make it more fair.

Murphy said his economic agenda has a clear focus on creating good new jobs and on expanding workforce development.

“But, we must also recommit to taking immediate action to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage and put it on a path to $15 an hour,” he said. “The Legislature has given its strong support in the past to raising the wage. I have never wavered in my commitment. We must make this a legislative priority and work to enact it before the end of the upcoming holidays. Economic stability would be among the best holiday gifts we could possibly give our ALICE families. We can, and must, deliver.”

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 60 Comments

Jobs boom over, or room to run?

From Bloomberg:

Will the U.S. Jobs Boom Last?

The U.S. unemployment rate is at an almost 50-year low. Companies increasingly say that workers are hard to find. So how much longer can hiring keep up the pace of the past several years?

The not-so-satisfying answer: It depends.

U.S. employers added an estimated 155,000 workers to nonfarm payrolls in November — a bit less than expected, but still enough to keep the three-month average at a respectable 170,000. The performance also extends the country’s longest-ever streak of net monthly job gains to eight years, two months.

Once upon a time, economists would have considered such a rate of job growth unsustainable. They estimated that the population of willing and able workers was increasing at somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 a month, so they figured the unemployment rate would remain steady as long as employers hired roughly that number of people. If hiring stayed above that breakeven level, it would eventually exhaust supply.

By most measures, the U.S. should be getting close to that exhaustion point. Consider the share of prime-aged workers (aged 25 to 54) who have jobs. As of November, it stood at 79.7 percent, not far from its pre-recession average of 80.1 percent. Closing that gap would take almost 500,000 jobs — something that, given a breakeven level of 100,000 or less and monthly job gains averaging 170,000, could happen within a year.

The breakeven level, though, depends on a lot more than population growth. If, for example, people start retiring later, then more new jobs will be needed to accommodate the young folks just starting out. Or if abundant opportunities draw more people into the labor force, supply could keep expanding. For such reasons, some economists now think job growth of as much as 200,000 a month could be sustainable for quite a while. This might also help explain why wages haven’t been rising faster.

In short, the U.S. economy can’t keep generating this many jobs every month forever. But that doesn’t mean it has to end soon.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, National Real Estate | 29 Comments

The king falters

From the WSJ:

New York’s Wealthiest Cut Losses as Manhattan Real Estate Falters

When actor Brian Kerwin decided to sell his longtime Manhattan home—an 1880s Romanesque townhouse he and his late wife had carefully restored—he was hoping it would go for about $12 million, based on similar sales in the neighborhood. When he and his agent, Kim Mogul Wright of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, agreed on a price tag of $8.5 million, he thought there would be “five takers within a week,” said Mr. Kerwin, 69, who has appeared in movies such as “The Help” and “27 Dresses.”

So he was shocked when the Upper West Side listing got “absolutely zero interest.” Finally, after a year on the market and several price cuts, the redbrick house is now in contract for about $5.5 million.

Accepting that the home would sell for far less than he had imagined was a gradual—and emotional—process, said Mr. Kerwin, who bought the house for less than $1 million in the early 1990s and raised his children there. “It’s like hitchhiking; after standing there for 10 hours you’ll take anything,” he said.

Mr. Kerwin is one of many Manhattan homeowners struggling to accept the new reality of the New York City real-estate market, as prices slide after a decadelong boom.

This year has brought into sharp focus all the pressures on the market. The slowdown began at the time of a stock market rally and record-low New York City unemployment—factors that typically accompany strong real-estate sales in the city. For that reason, many owners are reluctant to accept lower prices, even as buyers determinedly seek bargains. New York is facing the convergence of several large economic forces: an oversupply of new condos, a drop in international buyers as some countries impose capital controls, changes to the tax law that cap state and local deductions, and rising interest rates.

New York is facing the convergence of several large economic forces: oversupply of new construction condos, a drop in international buyers as some countries impose capital controls, tax law that makes it harder to deduct high state and local taxes, as well as rising interest rates. There is also a shift in taste from uptown to downtown.

As Lee J. Stahl of the design/build firm the Renovated Home put it: “It’s a crazy Bermuda Triangle of forces that have lined up against people trying to sell and buy these properties.” The Upper East Side luxury co-op market in particular is “a train wreck,” said Mr. Stahl, who often works with agents listing properties in need of renovation.

In August, for example, financier Ramesh Singh sold his sprawling Park Avenue duplex for $13.75 million—far less than the $20.365 million he paid in 2008, according to public records.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Development, NYC | 172 Comments

Realtors no longer positive on housing?

From Marketwatch:

Why 2019 won’t lead to a home buyer’s market

As 2018 winds to a close, the housing market has shown signs of a slowdown.

Throughout this year, observers have begun to speculate that the country’s housing market may have hit its peak. Meanwhile, millions of Americans continue to wait on the sidelines. Housing inventory remains incredibly tight, meaning that buying a home is a very expensive and difficult proposition for many. At the same time, expensive rents and low wages have constrained people’s ability to save up for a down payment.

And 2019 appears set to bring more of the same. “I would still rather be a seller than a buyer next year,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at real-estate website Realtor.com. Here is what forecasters predict the New Year will hold for America’s housing market:

As of Nov. 21, the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage was 4.81%, which is 89 basis points higher than a year ago. But by this time next year, experts predict it will be even higher.

Realtor.com estimated that the rate for a 30-year mortgage will reach 5.50% by the end of 2019, while real-estate firm Zillow estimated that it could hit 5.80% in a year’s time. Mortgage liquidity provider Fannie Mae was more moderate, predicting that rates will only increase to 5% by then.

Either way, homebuyers can expect to pay more in interest if they buy next year. And rising mortgage rates will cause ripple effects throughout the market, said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at real-estate data firm Attom Data Solutions.

“What’s driving the slowdown in price appreciation and the rise in inventory is not so much that inventory is being created, but that demand is decreasing,” he said. “This is an extremely mortgage-rate sensitive housing market.”

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 69 Comments

The big slow continues

From CNBC:

Home price gains shrink to the lowest level since January 2017: September S&P Case-Shiller index

Home values are still rising, but the gains have now shrunk to the lowest level since January 2017, as rising mortgage rates cut into affordability.

Prices increased 5.5 percent annually in September, down from 5.7 percent in August, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index. The 10-City Composite annual increase came in at 4.8 percent, down from 5.2 percent in the previous month. The 20-City Composite rose 5.1 percent year-over-year, down from 5.5 in the previous month.

“Home prices plus data on house sales and construction confirm the slowdown in housing,” says David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “One factor contributing to the weaker housing market is the recent increase in mortgage rates.”

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage is now a full percentage point higher than it was one year ago, and affordability has fallen to the weakest level in over a decade. Blitzer also pointed to weaker sales of both new and existing single family homes, which peaked one year ago in November 2017.

“Sales of existing homes are down 9.3 percent from that peak. Housing starts are down 8.7 percent from November of last year. The National Association of Home Builders sentiment index dropped seven points to 60, its lowest level in two years,” Blitzer added.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Mortgages, National Real Estate | 168 Comments

Yes, NJ is a manufacturing powerhouse


Manufacturing is (hidden) gem of N.J. economy

Manufacturing is not dying, it’s evolving.

So said John Kennedy, the CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, at a recent Financial Executives International meeting.

“Manufacturing in New Jersey is very hidden,” he said. “People (don’t realize) there are 11,130 manufacturing companies (here),” Kennedy said to the room of around 40 senior financial executives.

“Do you realize there are 378,000 people working for those companies? Do you realize the average income is higher than any other industry, including finance, at $90,000 per person?”

Kennedy said the most relevant issue facing the manufacturing industry is a skills gap that leads to staffing issues.

That may be partially due to the fact few people know how big manufacturing is, he said.

Kennedy said people also aren’t privy to the existence of the over 11,000 manufacturers in the state because they don’t know where they are.

People drive by them without knowing what they are, which, he said, means the facilities are clean and organized — and don’t perpetuate the stereotype of a manufacturing facility.

Kennedy said they are run by highly skilled technicians, who are becoming increasingly difficult to find.

“That’s the No. 1 problem in the state for manufacturing companies,” he said. “Can’t find people. People don’t go into the industry anymore. We figure there’s at least 33,000 open jobs we can’t fill.”

According to Kennedy, after adding up the numbers, manufacturing’s economic impact in the state is about 1.1 million jobs. And every manufacturing job, Kennedy said, drives four other jobs no matter the industry.

Kennedy went on to explain the way technologies such as 3D printing are contributing to the evolution of manufacturing. 3D printing can allow the creation of products, particularly prototypes for auto and aviation, at a drastically lower cost.

Kennedy credits the stigma surrounding the trades and vo-tech schools as the reason young people don’t look at manufacturing as a viable career option. When young people begin to be exposed to a more diverse range of industries, Kennedy said, the negative narrative surrounding trades begins to be addressed.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 30 Comments