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May 2017

News in Brief

  • The Seattle housing market led the way - again - as U.S. homes prices shot up at their fastest pace in nearly three years. The Standard & Poor's CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index increased 5.8 percent in February, the most in 32 months, as more homebuyers chased fewer available properties. Seattle, Portland, and Dallas reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities in the index. Seattle led the way with a 12.2 percent year-over-year price increase, followed by Portland, Ore., with 9.7 percent. Dallas replaced Denver in the top three with an 8.8 percent increase. Fifteen cities reported greater price increases in the year ending February 2017 versus the year ending January 2017. New York City, at 3.2 percent, posted the lowest year-over-year price increase. Home sales got off to a strong start this year, and in March reached their highest level in a decade. At the same time, the number of houses for sale has dropped steadily, forcing many would-be buyers into bidding wars.
  • As reported in the Seattle Times, Estately - a local real estate site, broke down our home costs by comparing sales prices for home based on which decade they were built. Brand-new homes were the priciest, selling for an average of $845,000 in Seattle. Seattle homes built before 1910 now sell for an average of $725,000, while homes from the 1920s and 1930s command about $700,000. By comparison, homes built between 1940 and 1980 cost closer to $610,000, and those that went up in the '80s and '90s cost about $665,000 on average. The trend generally holds true even after controlling for the size of the home, and the results were similar for condo sales. Of course, areas in Seattle with older houses tend to be in more desirable neighborhoods. Many of the oldest homes have probably been remodeled and modernized as well, raising their value.
  • The U.S. economy turned in the weakest performance in three years in the January-March quarter as consumers sharply slowed their spending. The gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, grew by just 0.7 percent in the first quarter following a gain of 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the Commerce Department. The slowdown primarily reflected slower consumer spending, which grew by just 0.3 percent after a 3.5 percent gain in the fourth quarter. Analysts blame in part the unusually warm winter, which meant less spending on utility bills. In addition to warmer weather holding back spending on utility bills, the slowdown also reflected a cutback in restocking of store shelves. The slowdown in inventory rebuilding cut nearly a percentage point from growth in the first quarter. Also acting as a drag was a reduction in government spending, which fell at a 1.7 percent annual rate with both the federal government and state and local governments seeing cuts. Many economists believe growth in the current April-June quarter will rebound to a rate of 3 percent or better as consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of economic activity, regains momentum. Job growth was strong in January and February before slowing in March, and the unemployment rate is at a nearly decade-low of 4.5 percent.
  • CareerCast recently analyzed different jobs based on 11 factors, including deadlines, hazards, public scrutiny, physical demands and competition, to come up with a list of the most and least stressful occupations. The most stressful jobs, ranked in order of most stressful, are: enlisted military personnel, firefighter, airline pilot, police officer, event coordinator, newspaper reporter, senior corporate executive, public relations executive, taxi driver, and broadcaster. The least stressful jobs, ranked in order of least stressful, are: diagnostic medical sonographer, compliance officer, hair stylist, audiologist, tenured university professor, medical records technician, jeweler, operations research analyst, pharmacy technician, and medical lab technician.
  • According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, the central Puget Sound region grew by more than 86,000 people last year, two-thirds of that growth occurred in 10 cities. The top city by total population change was Seattle, which accounted for 28 percent of the region's population change last year. Seattle likely surpassed 700,000 people in early 2017. Sammamish was second on the list, gaining 11,270 new residents largely due to an annexation of previously unincorporated Klahanie and several adjacent neighborhoods in January 2016. Other top growing cities by total change include: Bellevue, Tacoma, Federal Way, Renton, Everett, Kent, Auburn and Redmond.