Economy Watch: Existing Home Sales Edge Down

Existing home sales dropped 1.7 percent in September to an annualized rate of 4.75 million units, including both single-family and multifamily, according to the National Association, with August's rate revised upward to 4.83 million.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Existing home sales dropped 1.7 percent in September to an annualized rate of 4.75 million units, including both single-family and multifamily, according to the National Association on Friday, with August’s rate revised upward to 4.83 million. The September 2012 rate was 11 percent higher than during September 2011, however.

The Realtors also noted that total housing inventory at the end September fell 3.3 percent to 2.32 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.9-month supply at the current sales pace. That’s down from a six-month supply in August. Listed inventory is 20 percent below a year ago.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $183,900 in September, up 11.3 percent from a year ago, the NAR said. Distressed homes accounted for 24 percent of September sales (with 13 percent foreclosures and 11 percent short sales), up from 22 percent in August. Distressed inventory accounted for 30 percent of housing sales in September 2011.

Most states see unemployment drop

Unemployment dropped in September compared with August in 41 states and the District of Columbia, while six states posted rate increases, and three had no change, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Compared with September 2011, 44 states and D.C. saw unemployment rate decreases from a year earlier, while six experienced increases.

Nevada retains its unwanted and long-standing title as the state with the highest unemployment rate, at 11.8 percent in September 2012. Double-digit unemployment rates are still vexing only three states, namely Nevada, Rhode Island, and California (10.5 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively, for the latter two). As recently as early 2010, 18 states and D.C. suffered from double-digit unemployment rates.

North Dakota still enjoys the nation’s lowest jobless rate, 3 percent. All together, the BLS reports that 21 states have jobless rates significantly lower than the U.S. figure of 7.8 percent, while 14 states had measurably higher rates, and 15 states and DC had rates not much different from that of the nation.

Driving on U.S. roads modestly up

The U.S. Department of Transportation reported on Sunday that travel on all U.S. roads and streets was up by 1.2 percent (3 billion vehicle miles) for August 2012 compared with the same month in 2011. Total travel for the month is estimated to be 262.4 billion vehicle miles. That’s an indicator of a moderate expansion in economic activity, and came despite the fact that gas averaged about $3.78 per gallon during the month, compared with about $3.70 in August 2011.

Wall Street took a dive on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping 205.43 points, or 1.52 percent. The S&P 500 lost 1.66 percent and the Nasdaq was down 2.19 percent. Friday happened to be the 25th anniversary of Black Monday in 1987 (the Dow Jones was down 22.6 percent that day), but it was probably coincidence that on the same day in 2012, a string of poor reports, especially in the tech sector, helped drive markets down in the worst single-day performance in about four months.

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