Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Colorado's homicide rate increases, Pueblo reports highest rate

The FBI released new homicide data yesterday showing the US nationwide homicide rate increased to 4.9 per 100,000. That's up from 2014's rate of 4.4 per 100,000.

Nevertheless, the US homicide rate remains near a 50 year low, and 2015's rate is comparable to homicide rates found during the late 1950s when the US was in the midst of a historical lull in homicide rates.

In Colorado, we find a similar situation. 2010's homicide rate was the lowest recorded since 1960, with 2015's rate up from that. However, the overall trend has generally been flat over the past ten years:

In 2015, the Colorado homicide rate increased to 3.2 per 100,000, up from 2014's rate of 2.8 percent. However, 2015's homicide rate is what in no way unusual compared to the last decade of data. These totals are among some of the lowest we've seen in decades.

We see little to suggest that the legalization of recreational cannabis use has led to any sizable increase in homicides, or that gun control measures in recent years have had any impact that is measurable.

Colorado's homicide rate increased 14 percent from 2014 to 2015, compared to a ten percent increase for the nation overall during the same period.

Compared to other states, Colorado has the 16th-lowest homicide rate in the nation. Nearby states in the northern Rocky Mountain region have some of the lowest homicide rates in the nation with Idaho coming in at 1.9 per 100,000, and Utah at 1.8 per 100,000:

For additional reference here is a map of all states:

As The New York Times and New York magazine recently reported, the nationwide increase in homicides was largely driven by increases  in violence in seven large cities nationwide. Denver was not among them.

Regional Differences

A with the nation overall, Colorado's homicide situation varies geographically. Within the state's metropolitan areas, the homicide rate ranges from 0.9 per 100,000 in Boulder to 8.0 in Pueblo. Pueblo's homicide rate is higher than both the statewide rate and the nationwide rate:

Homicides increased in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Fort Collins. The rate in Greeley was unchanged. Homicides decreased over the year in Grand Junction and Boulder. Colorado overall remains remarkably safe in terms of homicides. With homicide rates around 2 per 100,000, northern Colorado and Western Colorado are among the safest places on earth.

Pueblo's rising homicide rates have been blamed on increasing gang activity.

Statewide in 2015, there were 176 recorded cases of "murder and nonnegligent manslaughter." That's up from 151 cases in 2014.

Of those 176 in Colorado, 108 were reported in the Denver metro area (with 53 in the city of Denver itself). 26 were reported in Colorado Springs and 13 in Pueblo. Pueblo's homicide rate is much higher, of course, because its population is considerably smaller than that of Colorado Springs or metro Denver.

In areas outside of Metro Denver, we're generally dealing with small numbers. Pueblo's total homicides increased 30 percent from 2014 to 2015, but that's an increase from 10 to 13 over the period. This hardly indicates an established trend toward an epidemic of violence. Nevertheless, one would prefer to see movement in the opposite direction.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How have oil prices affected Greeley employment?

According to the most recent employment data from the Department of Labor and Employment, there were  approximately 101,00 payroll jobs in Greeley during July 2016. That's up from the 98,000 jobs estimated during July of last year. However, total payroll employment in the region has gone only sideways since 2014.

In October of 2014, there were 102,000 jobs in the Greeley area, but since then, payroll employment has never exceeded 102,000 positions. In other words, employment growth has been flat for the past two years:

Compare this trend to the one in Fort Collins, right next door. In the case of Fort Collins, the overall job trend mirrors that of the state overall with an unbroken upward slope since 2009: 

Since 2014, unlike Greeley, Fort Collins has only continued upward on the same trend as before.

Oil prices, not surprisingly, appear to be a big factor in this trend in Greeley. Last December, for example, The Tribune reported that "Colorado's oil rigs drop to lowest in 13 years." By May of 2016, the Denver Post was reporting that rigs had dropped to a 16-year low.

In late 2014 and early 2015, oil prices plummeted from over 100 dollars per barrel to under 50 dollars per barrel. Nationwide, less-productive rigs shut down and national oil production fell.

This has had an impact on employment in the area, and we see it in the numbers.

In fact, during a seven month period in late 2015 and early 2016, job growth actually turned negative in the Greeley area. Meanwhile, the state of Colorado overall has not experienced year-over-year losses since 2010.

Here are the Greeley YOY changes. During July 2016, job growth was up 2.3 percent. But, that is on the fourth month in a row of growth following a period of decline. The graph shows how job growth began to disappear in 2015:

We can contrast this with the same time period in Fort Collins where job growth remains solid throughout the period. In July of 2016, there were 160,000 payroll jobs, which was an increase of 3 percent of the previous July.  In Fort Collins, that's a continuation of the general trend we've seen since 2012:

Of course, the decline of employment in Greeley doesn't mean there are immense numbers of unemployed people in Greeley now. Many of the newly-unemployed workers in Greeley moved away, as many of them were not native to Greeley in the first place. On the other hand, those temporary workers did often spend their wages in Greeley, enriching local businesses. Now that many of those workers have gone will mean a scaling back for the Greeley economy.

The magnitude of this remains, to be seen, however, and it look like the Greeley area has already returned to a period of job growth. For now.

Note on data: All this data comes from the "Establishment" survey of employment which measures payroll positions. It is different from the Household survey that is used to calculate the unemployment rate and which measures employed persons. Thus, the establishment survey can include part time positions, and a person holding two jobs could show up as two jobs in the establishment survey data. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Central Banks Hold Steady in August, No Sign of Rate Hikes

August is now behind us, and as a sign of the concern central bankers share over the weakness found in the world's major economies, there is no sign of any effort to rise target rates at central banks. 
From the Fed to the European Central Bank, to the Bank of England and beyond, there appears to be no appetite for attempting to return to more "normal" monetary policy. We're apparently in a state of virtual permanency when it comes to "extraordinary" monetary policy which involves keeping the target interest rate at zero or near zero for years on end. 
In fact, the only movement we've seen at a major central bank in recent days comes from the Bank of England where the bank cut the target rate from 0.5 percent to 0.25 percent. Except for that change, and continued declines in Australia, nothing has moved since last Spring: 
In late July, the Fed declined to raise the Federal Funds rate. But, of course, they maintained the usual posture of saying that a rate hike was just around the corner. Cutting through the posturing, Bloomberg wondered at the time if the Fed is becoming even more dovish. 
Now, the Fed appears likely to do nothing at its next meeting. The Wall Street Journal avers:
[W]ith inflation holding below the Fed’s 2% target and the unemployment rate little changed in recent months, senior officials feel little sense of urgency about moving and an inclination toward delay, according to their public comments and recent interviews.
This comes just weeks after the Bank of England cut its key interest rate to the lowest rate of its 322-year history, dropping the target rate to .25 percent. 
The given excuse for this was the chance that Brexit might lead to an economic slowdown. Thus, according to BofE Governor Mark Carney:
 “There is a clear case for stimulus, and stimulus now,” Mr. Carney said at a news conference, in the latest attempt by officials to reassure Britons that they are acting decisively.
Meanwhile, as one looks around the central-bank landscape, one is left wondering what central banks will do when something really goes wrong. With rates all already so close to zero (or even below zero) any serious economic disruption, such as an obvious recession, is increasingly likely to lead to helicopter money, negative rates, or an intensification of attacks on cash, such as that found in Ken Rogoff's recent book The Curse of Cash
Another possible route to "stimulus," of course, is good ol' fashioned fiscal policy such as spending on public works and other types of government spending. 
The European Central Bank urged European governments to do as much last week when ECB president Mario Draghi sang the praises of government stimulus and criticized Germany for not spending enough. 
The European economy overall is so weak, though, that projections suggest that even with massive amounts of monetary stimulus, price inflation will not reach the ECB's 2 percent target any time soon. With its credibility on the line, however, the ECB appears reluctant to cut its deposit rate even further below negative 0.4 percent, or its MRO rate below zero, where it already sits. 
"Wait and see" appears to be the approach for now.
Through August, here are central bank target rates and resources: 
  • USA: 0.5%
  • Canada: 0.5%
  • UK: 0.25%
  • Australia: 1.5%
  • China: 4.35%
  • ECB: -0.4%
  • Japan: -0.1%
The rates used for this analysis are: 
Here's a look at recent changes in closer detail:

Colorado Springs average rent grows by all-time high of 10.2 percent

During the second quarter of 2016, rent growt hin Colorado springs hit an all-time high of 10.2 percent, bringing the average rent in the metro area to 991 dollars, which is also an all-time high. That's up from the first quarter  of this year when the average rent was 959. The average rent during the second quarter of last year was 899 dollars.

According to data released by the Colorado Division of Housing, the average rent in Colorado Springs continues to grow at a historically high rates:

The last time the average rent grew at a similar rate was during the dot-com boom at the very end of the 1990s. If we look at the average rent over, time, we find that the general trend has, not surprisingly been upward, but has increased more rapidly over the past five years than was the case during the previous decade:

Looking just at nominal rent levels, however, can be misleading, and if we adjust for inflation using the nationwide CPI, we find that rents actually went down in real terms from 2003 to 2009. While there was some growth from 2009 to 2013, we see that even in inflation-adjusted terms that rent growth has picked up since 2014. Real rents only surpassed the 2001 high in 2014 following a long period of flat rents. Now, however, inflation-adjusted rents have surpassed the old 2001 peak, and have set several new all-time highs in recent quarters:

As one might expect, this year's robust rent growth reflects low vacancy rates. While not setting any records, the vacancy rates for Colorado Springs over the past year have been generally rather low, with the vacancy rate even dipping below five percent twice over the past two years. (A vacancy rate below five percent is generally regarded as "low".) In any case, recent vacancy rates are among the lowest we've seen since the dot-com boom days, and certainly among the lowest we've seen over the past decade.

Finally, we should note that vacancy rates and rents can be significantly affected by seasonal issues, with the fourth quarter often showing the softest markets each year, with the third quarter often showing the strongest markets. 

So, it can be helpful to compare vacancy rates to the same quarters in previous years. In the final graph, we see the second quarter of this year compared to previous years. 2016's second quarter vacancy rate was higher than the previous year, but nevertheless remains near a ten-year low. 

With some of the highest foreclosure rates among metro counties in Colorado, and with a fairly sedate job market compared to Denver and northern Colorado, Colorado Springs has been more slow to experience strong price growth in housing. However, over the past two years, it has become clear that Colorado Springs is now seeing unusually high growth in rents and housing demand. Future rents will depend partially on new housing construction, and we'll look at that in a future post.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bankruptcy filings up 11 percent from July to August, contrary to the usual trend

According to federal bankruptcy court records, there were 1,106 bankruptcy filings in Colorado during August. That's up 11 percent from July's total of 990, and it's down 8.5 percent from August 2015's total of 1,208.

Overall, the general trend has been downward since 2010, as we can see in the first graph:

An unusual thing happened in August, though: bankruptcy filings increased from July to August. Since 2007, this only happened once before, during 2011.  In other words, bankruptcies usually fall during this period, but from July to August of this year, bankruptcies rose at the highest rate experience since 2006:

It remains to be seen whether or not this signals a change in the downward trend we've seen seeing for the past six years.

There have been other indicators, though, that this year bankruptcy activity has been leveling off, rather than continuing the sharp down ward trend that we saw from about 2012 to 2015. The next graph shows how year-over-year changes in bankruptcy activity has been rather sizable with year-over-year declines of 20 percent or more being rather common. So far, this year, the degree to which filings have been declining become smaller compared to 2015. From August 2015 to August 2016, bankruptcies fell 8.5 percent. From August 2014 to August 2015, bankruptcies fell 16.9 percent.
Are bankruptcies surging in Colorado? At this time, there's not enough or an established trend to say this, although the most recent data may suggest that the most robust portion of the current expansion may be softening. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Housing construction rising in Pueblo,but not by much

Through July of this year, the Pueblo area reported 156 permits for private housing units. That's an increase of 13.3 percent compared to 2015, although overall permitting activity is up from the low points experienced in the wake of the 2007-2009 recession. (All permit data used in this article is form the Census Bureau.)

The first graph shows total permit activity for each year for the period of January-July:

While permits are down this year compared to last, they are nonetheless up compared to every year in the period from 2011-2014.

Over the past decade, only three years showed increases over the previous year. The second graph shows year-to-year change in permits for the period from January-July (values are in %):

Most of the past decade has reflected an experience of declining permit activity from the housing-bubble highs prior to 2008. A significant decline began in 2007 and the area really didn't begin to show signs of life again until 2015.

The vast majority of this activity is in singlefamily homes, as the next graph shows. The red bars show where multifamily units were built in addition to singlefamily units. Small numbers of multifamily units were built in a number of months during 2008 and 2009. However, after 2009, multifamily units only register in six months of the more than 80 months that have passed since then. The last multifamily permitting that took place was in May 2015 when 62 units were permitted for a senior housing project known as Oakshire Trails.

Other than that, multifamily housing construction has been exceedingly rare in recent years.

Needless to say, the Pueblo area has not experienced the same sort of apartment demand that was notably strong in the metro Denver area from 2012 to around 2015.

Singlefamily housing has slowly come back since 2011, but gains have been slow and measured. Nevertheless, if we look just at singlefamily permits (excluding multifamily) for the period of Jan-July, we find that 2016's singlefamily activity is at an eight-year high:

Moreover, with the exception of the change from 2011-2012, the year-over-year increases for 2015-2016 was at a ten-year high through July of this year.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Total nonfarm employment in Colorado up in July, growth trend continues

For now, there are few dark clouds on the horizon for payroll employment totals in Colorado. While employment growth has softened somewhat since 2014, it remains well above zero.

According to state-level employment data, released on August 22, year-over-year employment growth in Colorado increased 3 percent, which was the largest increase since July of last year when growth reached 3.2 percent. There were a total of 2.62 million jobs in Colorado in July, compared to 2.55 million jobs one year earlier.

That equates to 76,000 more jobs, year-over-year.

This should not be equated for new employed persons, however, as this measure of employment counts only jobs and not people. Thus, a single person with two jobs would show up as two jobs by this measure, and two job holders should not be assumed. The Household Survey, which counts employed persons, will be considered in a separate post.

Nevertheless, job growth, strictly speaking, continues in positive territory.

On a month-to-month basis, we also find that July 2016 was strong. In this case, job growth tends to be negative from June to July due to seasonal issues. So, to get a better sense of how July compares, we must compare to previous June-July periods in each year. When we do this, we find that the job losses for the June-July period were the smallest we've seen in more than a decade:

So, by both these measures, we find that job growth in July was solidly positive.

This continues a period of net job growth over the job losses that occurred in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis when more than 200,000 jobs were lost in Colorado. Since 2013, though, Colorado has added 255,000 jobs above and beyond its old 2008 peak prior to the last recession: