Net worth slipping away
According to the long awaited Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finance, the recession has, in fact, hurt American families. The median family net worth plummeted 40 percent from $126,400 in 2007 to only $77,300 in 2010, the last year of the study. The report, released every three years also reveals that the median family income dropped 7.7 percent from $49,600 in 2007 to $45,800 in 2010. Brutal.
Families considered to be middle class were hit the hardest, with those in the 60th to 80th percentile seeing a 40.4 percent drop in net worth – from $215,700 all the way down to $128,600, and families in the 20th to 40th percentile saw a 35.4 percent drop in net worth from $39,600 to a staggering $25,600.
As of 2010, single people over the age of 55 had their net worth drop to nearly 2001 levels, while couples with children were the hardest hit family type, seeing a 41.2 percent drop in median net worth over the three years.
The survey results were expected to be bad, but the final results were staggering, with most Americans’ net worths falling as their property values plummeted during “The Great Recession” as the Fed is calling the economic crisis that some argue is not yet over.
[ba-quote]The survey says, “Families’ finances are affected by both their own decisions and the state of the broader economy. Over the 2007–10 period, the U.S. economy experienced its most substantial downturn since the Great Depression. Real gross domestic product (GDP) fell nearly 5.1 percent between the third quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2009, the official period of recession as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. During the same period, the unemployment rate rose from 5.0 percent to 9.5 percent, the highest level since 1983. Recovery from the so-called Great Recession has also been particularly slow; real GDP did not return to pre-recession levels until the third quarter of 2011. The unemployment rate continued to rise through the third quarter of 2009 and remained over 9.4 percent during 2010. The rate of inflation, as measured by the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U-RS), decreased somewhat over the period from an annual average of 2.8 percent in 2007 to 1.6 percent in 2010.[/ba-quote]
Net worth is down, yet spending is up?
Some have already interpreted the report as Americans’ belts loosening and a willingness to spend coming back, but the Federal Reserve survey says, “The share of families with any type of debt decreased 2.1 percentage points to 74.9 percent over the 2007–10 period, reversing an increase that had taken place since 2001.”
Outstanding credit card balances fell 0.6 percent over the three year period, and the survey does reveal spending, but more so to pay down debt than going out on shopping sprees and letting cash flow freely. Also noted in the report is the type of debts carried having shifted. Families with credit card debt declined by 6.7 percent to 39.4 percent, and the median balance of credit card debt fell to $2,600, representing a 16.1 percent decline during the survey period.
The number of credit cards carried by American families fell, with 32 percent saying in 2010 that they now had no credit cards, up five percent in the three years studied.
The middle class has most clearly been at the brunt of The Great Recession’s brutal blow, with all fingers pointing back to the housing market and the homeowners’ plight of continually falling home values. During this election year, it is not expected that any meaningful legislation on housing will pass, but in 2013, it will be interesting to see how statistics like the Fed’s new report play out on the national stage.
Is the real estate industry endorsing Carson’s nomination to HUD?
(BUSINESS NEWS) Ben Carson’s initial appointment to HUD was controversial given his lack of experience in housing, but what is the pulse now?
NAR strongly backs Dr. Carson’s nomination
When President-Elect Donald Trump put forth Dr. Ben Carson’s name as the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, NAR President William E. Brown said, “While we’ve made great strides in recent years, far more can be done to put the dream of homeownership in reach for more Americans.”
At the time of nomination, the National Association of Realtors (the largest trade organization in the nation) offered a positive tone regarding Dr. Carson and said the industry looks forward to working with him. But does that hold true today?
The confirmation hearings yesterday were far less controversial than one would expect, especially in light of how many initially reacted to his nomination. Given his lack of experience in housing, questions seemed to often center around protecting the LGBT community and veterans, both of which he pledged to support.
In fact, Dr. Carson said the Fair Housing Act is “one of the best pieces of legislation we’ve ever had in this country,” promising to issue a “world-class plan” for housing upon his confirmation…
Job openings hit 14-year high, signaling economic improvement
The volume of job openings is improving, but not across all industries. The overall economy is improving, but not evenly across all career paths.
Job openings hit a high point
To understand the overall business climate, the U.S. Labor Department studies employment, today releasing data specific to job vacancies. According to the department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLT) for April, job openings rose to 5.38 million, the highest seen since December 2000, and a significant jump from March’s 5.11 million vacancies. Although a lagging indicator, it shows strength in the labor market.
The Labor Department reports that the number of hires in April fell to 5 million, which indicates a weak point in the strong report, and although the volume remains near recent highs, this indicates a talent gap and highlights the number of people who have left the labor market and given up on looking for a job.
Good news, bad news, depending on your profession
That said, another recent Department report notes that employers added 221,000 jobs in April and 280,000 in May, but the additions are not evenly spread across industries. Construction jobs rose in April, but dipped in professional and business services, hospitality, trade, and transportation utilities. In other words, white collar jobs are down, blue collar jobs are up, which is good or bad news depending on your profession.
Additionally, the volume of people quitting their jobs was 2.7 million in April compared to the seven-year high of 2.8 million in March. Economists follow this number as a metric for gauging employee confidence in finding their next job.
If you’re in the market for a job, there are an increasing number of openings, so your chance of getting hired is improving, but there is a caveat – not all industries are enjoying improvement.
If you’re hiring talent, you’ll still get endless resumes, but there appears to be a growing talent gap for non-labor jobs, so you’re not alone in struggling to find the right candidate.
Economists suspect the jobs market will continue to improve as a whole, but this data does not pertain to every industry.
Gas prices are down, so are gas taxes about to go up?
Do low gas prices mean higher gas taxes are on the way? Budgeting for 2015 just got a bit more complicated, if some politicians have their way.
Gas taxes and your bottom line
Many industries rely heavily on time in their vehicle, not just truck drivers and delivery trucks. Sales professionals hop in their vehicles throughout the day, as do many other types of professionals (service providers like plumbers, and so forth). For that reason, gas prices and taxes are a relevant line item that must be budgeted for 2015, but with politicians making the rounds to push for higher gas taxes, budgeting becomes more complicated.
Gas prices are down roughly 50 cents per gallon compared to a year ago, which some analysts say have contributed to more money in consumers’ pockets. Some believe that this will improve holiday sales, but others believe the timing is just right to increase federal taxes on gas. The current tax on gas is 18.40 cents per gallon, and on diesel are 24.40 cents per gallon.
Supporters and opponents are polar opposites
Supporters argue as follows: gas prices are low, so it won’t hurt to increase federal gas taxes, in fact, those funds must go toward improving our infrastructure, which in the long run, saves Americans money because smoother roads mean better gas mileage and less congestion.
Gas taxes have long been a polarizing concept, and despite lowered gas prices, the controversial nature of the taxes have not diminished.
While some are pushing for complete abolition of federal gas taxes, others, like former Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell (D) tell CNBC, “Say that cost the average driver $130 a year. They would get a return on that investment” in safer roads and increased quality of life, he added.
The Washington Post‘s Chris Mooney points out that federal gas taxes have been “stuck” at 18 cents for over 20 years, last raised when gas was barely a dollar a gallon and that the tax must increase not only to improve the infrastructure, but to “green” our behavior, and help our nation find tax reform compromise.
Is a gas tax politically plausible?
Mooney writes, “So, this is not an argument that a gas tax raise is politically plausible — any more than a economically efficient tax on carbon would be. It’s merely a suggestion that — ignoring politics — it might be a pretty good idea.”
Rendell noted, “The World Economic Forum, 10 years ago, rated us the best infrastructure in the world,” adding that we “need to do something for our infrastructure, not in a one or two year period, but over a decade.”
Others would note that this rating has not crumbled in just a few years, that despite many bridges and roads in need of repair, our infrastructure is still superior to even the most civilized nations.
Regardless of the reasons, most believe that Congress won’t touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, especially leading up to another Presidential campaign season starting next year.
“I think it’s too toxic and continues to be too toxic,” Steve LaTourette (the former Republican congressman best known for his close friendship with his fellow Ohioan, Speaker John Boehner) tells The Atlantic. “I see no political will to get this done.”
Whether the time is fortuitous or not, and regardless of the positive side effects, many point to a fear of voters’ retaliation against any politician siding with a gas hike, so this matter going any further than the proposal stage is unlikely.
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