Republicans Killing the Housing Market

The Mortgage Corner

The Trump administration and Republicans’ anti-immigration policies will kill the housing market. Why? Trump wants to cut immigration quotas by 50 percent when there aren’t enough qualified workers to fill current job openings. And congress can’t agree on anything that gives easier access to citizenship for the foreign-born.

The housing market can’t provide enough housing even for current population growth. Both new and existing-home sales have declined this year because of the labor shortage. Builders and real-estate agents have complained for years about more red tape, tighter lending standards and a scarcity of inexpensive lots to build on.

And builders are now facing an extreme labor shortage. They can’t find enough carpenters, bricklayers and other workers with the needed skills. “Labor and material shortages are holding construction back, and will continue to do so for some time yet,” says Marketwatch, citing economists at Capital Economics.

image

Graph: FRED

The number of existing-homes listed for sale in 2017 to date is the lowest since 1999, according to the NAR. That’s in part because distressed sales volumes have fallen from more than 100,000 a month at the peak of the post crisis period, 2009-2012, to about 25,000 today, which means there aren’t many cheaply-priced homes left over from the housing crash. 

I said last week the Labor Department reported there were 6.1 million job openings in August in its JOLTS report, or Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which was “little changed” from July, while hirings remained far behind at 5.430 million. The very large gap has been little changed for more than a few months. At 652,000, the current spread between openings and hirings is one of the very widest on record, and two months ago it was even higher—the spread was 1 million.

Why? There aren’t enough workers to fill current job openings; as I said—and the Trump administration wants to restrict the supply even further in its single-minded pursuit of minority white-nationalist voters?

image

Economists know that to advance economic growth to say, 3 percent for any length of time, 2.8 million new workers are needed each year, when our domestic population is capable of just 600,000 new adult workers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. So where are the additional workers to come from if Trump and the Republican congress continue to block a more enlightened immigration policy?

Housing affordability will suffer the most, when household incomes are rising at half the rate of both housing prices and rental rates. It’s a sad fact that the average production and non-supervisory worker earned $37,600 annually in 2016. “When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years,” said Executive Pay Watch, in a report conducted by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

So we are at a crossroads, if we want to provide the necessary housing for our growing population. A more enlightened immigration policy is the first step. And then Republicans should drop their obsession with unnecessary tax cuts and instead focus on that $1 trillion infrastructure bill they’ve talked so much about.  It’s even more necessary because of the horrific hurricanes.

Harlan Green © 2017

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

Posted in Consumers, Economy, Housing, housing market, Politics, Weekly Financial News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

JOLTS Report – Too Many Job Openings!

Financial FAQs

The Labor Department reported today that there were 6.1 million job openings in August in its JOLTS report, or Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which was “little changed” from July, while hirings remained far behind at 5.430 million.  Corporations are flush with cash from record profits, so they need to put that cash to work by filling more of those job openings instead of asking for tax cuts they don’t need.

image

Graph: BLS.gov

In fact, the very large gap has been little changed for more than a few months. At 652,000, the current spread between openings and hirings is one of the very widest on record, and two months ago it was even higher—the spread was 1 million.

Yes, the gap between openings and hiring first opened up about 2-1/2 years ago signaling that employers are either not willing to offer high enough pay to fill empty positions and/or are having a hard time finding people with the right skills.

It’s worse than that. I maintain companies (corporations in particular) are using their record profits (up 7.4 percent in one year) to buy back their stock, instead; which enhances CEO pay.

I reported two weeks ago that Executive Pay Watch, in a report conducted by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), said last year CEOs were paid 335 times the average worker. The average production and non-supervisory worker earned $37,600 annually in 2016. “When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years,” said the report. 

This brake on economic growth is mainly because corporations have been able to successfully resist their employees’ demands for higher wages due to corporations’ monopoly positions in many industries, and massive lobbies. Instead they’ve used most of those profits to buy back their stock, and so enhance their earnings. CEO pay spiked 19.6 percent last year, before inflation.

And next year may not be better for their employees. I also reported recently that “Pay raises for U.S. employees are not expected to improve next year, according to a survey released recently by global professional services company Aon, based on a survey of over 1,000 companies. Base pay is expected to rise 3 percent in 2018, up slightly from 2.9 percent in 2017. Spending on variable pay — incentives or bonuses — will be 12.5 percent of payroll, low levels not seen since 2013. This suggests a “pessimistic view of corporate performance in the coming year,” Ken Abosch, a strategy and development analyst at Aon, said in a statement.

image

Graph: Popular Economics

How can corporations be pessimistic about their prospects with their record profits? They now have the largest profits as a percentage of Gross Domestic Income (a measure of total national income) in history.

It should be obvious the corporate world wants more tax breaks, so the Aon survey is suspect. Corporations are really not interested in expanding their markets—at least in the U.S. of A. They are more interested in expanding the pocketbooks of their executives and stockholders, which is why GDP growth has been below the long term average.

As Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz has been saying for years, “…it is not as if America’s large corporations were starved for cash; they are sitting on a couple of trillion dollars. And the lack of investment is not because profits, either before or after tax, are too low; after-tax corporate profits as a share of GDP have almost tripled in the last 30 years.”

Consumers power two-thirds of economic activity, so economic growth can’t improve unless the incomes of consumers grow, and that won’t happen as long as corporations hoard their profits rather than invest in their own employees future growth.

Harlan Green © 2017

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

JOLTS Report – Too Many Job Openings!

Financial FAQs

The Labor Department reported today that there were 6.1 million job openings in August in its JOLTS report, or Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, which was “little changed” from July, while hirings remained far behind at 5.430 million.  Corporations are flush with cash from record profits, so they need to put that cash to work by filling more of those job openings instead of asking for tax cuts they don’t need.

image

Graph: BLS.gov

In fact, the very large gap has been little changed for more than a few months. At 652,000, the current spread between openings and hirings is one of the very widest on record, and two months ago it was even higher—the spread was 1 million.

Yes, the gap between openings and hiring first opened up about 2-1/2 years ago signaling that employers are either not willing to offer high enough pay to fill empty positions and/or are having a hard time finding people with the right skills.

In fact, it’s worse than that. I maintain companies (corporations in particular) are using their record profits (up 7.4 percent in one year) to buy back their stock, instead; which enhances CEO pay.

I reported two weeks ago that Executive Pay Watch, in a report conducted by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), said last year CEOs were paid 335 times the average worker. The average production and non-supervisory worker earned $37,600 annually in 2016. “When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for 50 years,” said the report. 

This brake on economic growth is mainly because corporations have been able to successfully resist their employees’ demands for higher wages due to corporations’ monopoly positions in many industries, and massive lobbies. Instead they’ve used most of those profits to buy back their stock, and so enhance their earnings. CEO pay spiked 19.6 percent last year, before inflation.

And next year may not be better for their employees. I also reported recently that “Pay raises for U.S. employees are not expected to improve next year, according to a survey released recently by global professional services company Aon, based on a survey of over 1,000 companies. Base pay is expected to rise 3 percent in 2018, up slightly from 2.9 percent in 2017. Spending on variable pay — incentives or bonuses — will be 12.5 percent of payroll, low levels not seen since 2013. This suggests a “pessimistic view of corporate performance in the coming year,” Ken Abosch, a strategy and development analyst at Aon, said in a statement.

image

Graph: Popular Economics

How can corporations be pessimistic about their prospects with their record profits? They now have the largest profits as a percentage of Gross Domestic Income (a measure of total national income) in history.

I am assuming they want more tax breaks so the Aon survey is suspect. Corporations are really not interested in expanding their markets—at least in the U.S. of A. They are more interested in expanding the pocketbooks of their executives and stockholders, which is why GDP growth has been below the long term average.

As Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz has been saying for years, “…it is not as if America’s large corporations were starved for cash; they are sitting on a couple of trillion dollars. And the lack of investment is not because profits, either before or after tax, are too low; after-tax corporate profits as a share of GDP have almost tripled in the last 30 years.”

Consumers power two-thirds of economic activity, so economic growth can’t improve unless the incomes of consumers grow, and that won’t happen as long as corporations hoard their profits rather than invest in their own employees future growth.

Harlan Green © 2017

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

Posted in Consumers, Economy, Macro Economics, Weekly Financial News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Poor Employment Report?

Popular Economics Weekly

What does it mean when 33,000 nonfarm payroll jobs were lost in September? Not much, when many of the losses came from the hurricanes that threw 1.5 million out of work, according to Marketwatch’s Jeff Bartash, and the rest of our economy is doing very well.

Wages jumped, also good news, but it was mainly because many of those lost jobs were in retail and restaurants which tend to pay the lowest incomes, hence the upward trend may be temporary.

image

Graph: Marketwatch.com

The number of employed jumped by a huge 906,000 in the smaller household survey that determines the unemployment rate—in spite of the storms—while the number of job losses was smaller; at 331,000, hence the lower unemployment rate. So the rest of the U.S. is doing well.

And we now have a fast growing manufacturing sector that will grow even faster with the cleanup and rebuild from those disasters. Its growth is also helped by the cheaper dollar, which is boosting exports.

Econoday reports ISM’s manufacturing index, already running well beyond strength in factory data out of Washington, is accelerating even further, to an index of 60.8 in September which is a 13-year best. Part of the gain in the index is tied to hurricanes and specifically deliveries times where slowing is translated as strength, as we said.

But it’s more than that—maybe those higher exports are boosting GDP growth as well? Factory new orders rose 4.3 points in the month to 64.6 which is a 4-year high. And the hurricanes didn’t slow down production which is at a very strong 62.2. Employment is a big standout in today’s report, posting the first 60 score at 60.3 in 6-1/2 years.

image

Graph: Econoday

The ‘other’ non-manufacturing service sector part of the economy is also growing robustly. The headline ISM non-manufacturing survey index jumped to 59.8 for the highest score in more than 3 years. New orders, that include strength for exports, jumped nearly 5 points to a robust 61.3 level that was last exceeded in April this year. Backlog orders jumped 2.5 points to 56.0 which helped employment rise 6 tenths to 56.8 with both these readings the strongest since May this year.

So the U.S. economy is firing on all cylinders, which is why the Fed is making louder noises re a December rate hike, in spite of nonexistent inflation. Why do so? Because it wants to gradually sell off its $4.5 billion hoard of government securities, which reverses the various QE programs that injected that much cash to boost growth.

So with less cash in circulation, money is no longer so cheap and market interest rates tend to rise. The Fed wants to be able to anticipate this trend.

But shouldn’t we be seeing more indications of higher growth than just one quarter of 3.1 percent GDP growth? That may happen if more federal funding than a measly $14.6 billion is available for Hurricane Harvey alone, when cleanup may cost $200 billion

Government-is-the-problem Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has changed his tune now that Texas is in need of federal funding. He said he thinks the state will need “far in excess” of $125 billion in federal relief dollars. Houston Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee called for a record-breaking $150 billion aid package on CNN recently.

Really, and who knows what Florida and Puerto Rico’s cleanup will cost? In fact, it will take such large amounts of federal spending to even sustain last quarter’s 3.1 percent growth rate, in my opinion.

Harlan Green © 2017

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

Posted in Consumers, Economy, Politics, Weekly Financial News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time to Build More Homes!

The Mortgage Corner

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) analysis of Census Construction Spending data shows that total private residential construction spending is soaring, as it rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of $520.9 billion in August, 0.5 percent up from downwardly revised July estimates.

But that’s not enough housing to satisfy current demand. There will be plenty of housing to replace, however, after this hurricane season has devastated so many U.S. states and territories.

image

Graph: NAHB.org

It was the fourth consecutive monthly increase after a dip in April, said the NAHB, Hurricane Harvey that made landfall late in August did not have significant impacts on construction spending in the same month, but will have a huge impact in months to come, as I said. The total private residential construction spending was 11.7 percent higher than a year ago. However, the blue line in the graph that represents residential construction spending still lags far behind commercial (red) and home improvement construction (gray lines).

The Midwest region is currently hurting the most from a housing shortage. Marketwatch’s Andrea Riquier reports the Home Affordability Index from real estate data provider Attom Data Solutions edged down to 100 in the third quarter, the lowest level since the third quarter of 2008, which was just as the financial crisis was taking hold.

Affordability is a problem because incomes haven’t risen as much as housing prices (especially in the Midwest). Attom notes that median home prices have risen 73 percent since bottoming out in 2012, while average weekly wages have increased only 13 percent in that time.

Why such a housing shortage so late in this recovery? For starters, the number of existing-homes listed for sale in 2017 to date is the lowest since 1999, according to the NAR. That’s in part because distressed sales volumes have fallen from more than 100,000 a month at the peak of the post crisis period, 2009-2012, to about 25,000 today, which means there aren’t many cheaply-priced homes left over from the housing crash.

And the construction industry because of a labor shortage has yet to catch up to soaring demand from a fully employed economy. More than half of the 3.5 million construction workers were laid off during the recession, and replacements are hard to find in this now fully employed economy.

Harlan Green © 2017

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

Posted in Consumers, Housing, housing market, Weekly Financial News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Time For 2018

Financial FAQs

We will need the 2018 elections now more than ever to vote out the greed and cowardice of those members of our national legislature who oppose all forms of gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre of innocents.  It is those who have supported gun-rights groups that need to be replaced to protect Americans from such random acts of violence.

Gun-rights groups have allowed the killing of thousands of Americans in mass shootings over the past decade, including 521 mass shootings in just the last 477 days, according to New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.

That’s also because we have to vote out supporters of the largest terrorist organization in the U.S., the National Rifle Association, that opposes any controls on military-style weapons of mass destruction.

Yes, that’s right. Military weapons, such as the AK-47 developed by the Soviets because it was cheap to manufacture and easy to use, are responsible for more American deaths than ISIS; or any other terrorist organization that has killed maybe 15-20 Americans in all.  Yet we spend $billions trying to eliminate them, but nothing on eliminating American terrorism.

Instead those monies are donated to the candidates that support American anti-gun control organizations, such as the NRA. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were the top recipients of monies from organizations that oppose any form of gun control in 2016, reports Marketwatch — no surprise, since they both ran for president.

Cruz raked in $360,727 to lead the way, according to OpenSecrets.org. Just two years earlier, Cruz had collected $18,300 when he was the junior senator from Texas and lacked any significant influence in the Senate.

Third on the list of recipients of their largesse is House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said of the Las Vegas massacre, “this is not who we are”. Do we really believe him when he was the recipient of $171,977 from such organizations?

Who are we when President Trump, our elected President said, “You came through big for me, so I will come through big for you,” at the NRA’s latest convention?

image

Graph: Marketwatch.com

That is in fact “who we are” at the moment, but not who we can become if we will take on such American terrorist organizations as the NRA that are responsible for the indiscriminate killing of so many women and children.

The big lie broadcast by gun-rights groups is that banning military-style weapons is banning the Second Amendment right to bear arms. No, that right is protected by the Second Amendment, but not the right to bear arms that slaughter so many innocents.

Harlan Green © 2017

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Time For 2018

Financial FAQs

We will need the 2018 elections now more than ever to vote out the greed and cowardice of those members of our national legislature who oppose all forms of gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre of innocents.  It is those who have supported gun-rights groups that need to be replaced to protect Americans from such random acts of violence.

Gun-rights groups have allowed the killing of thousands of Americans in mass shootings over the past decade, including 521 mass shootings in just the last 477 days, according to New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.

That’s also because we have to vote out supporters of the largest terrorist organization in the U.S., the National Rifle Association, that opposes any controls on military-style weapons of mass destruction.

Yes, that’s right. Military weapons, such as the AK-47 developed by the Soviets because it was cheap to manufacture and easy to use, are responsible for more American deaths than ISIS; or any other terrorist organization that has killed maybe 15-20 Americans in all, yet we spend $billions trying to eliminate them, but nothing on eliminating American terrorism.

Instead those monies are donated to the candidates that support American anti-gun control organizations, such as the NRA. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were the top recipients of monies from organizations that oppose any form of gun control in 2016, reports Marketwatch — no surprise, since they both ran for president.

Cruz raked in $360,727 to lead the way, according to OpenSecrets.org. Just two years earlier, Cruz had collected $18,300 when he was the junior senator from Texas and lacked any significant influence in the Senate.

Third on the list of recipients of their largesse is House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said of the Las Vegas massacre, “this is not who we are”. Do we really believe him when he was the recipient of $171,977 from such organizations?

Who are we when, when President Trump, our elected President said, “You came through big for me, so I will come through big for you,” at the NRA’s latest convention?

image

Graph: Marketwatch.com

That is in fact “who we are” at the moment, but not who we can become if we will take on such American terrorist organizations such as the NRA that are responsible for the indiscriminate killing of so many women and children.

The big lie broadcast by gun-rights groups is that banning military-style weapons is banning the Second Amendment right to bear arms. No, that right is protected by the Second Amendment, but not the right to bear arms that slaughter so many innocents.

Harlan Green © 2017

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment