Yesterday the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its producer price index for residential construction. Its significant increase from July to August is a good sign for the housing market.
(belonginglasvegas.org wants to hear from you….yes, you. How have your circumstances changed over the past year? Have things gotten better or worse? How are you coping with the changes in your life, or with changes you see in your neighborhood? Send us a little about your story, here….)
Leave it journalists to have a nostalgic look back at…well, just about everything. But seriously, the folks at NPR’s Planet Money are following up with several of the folks who they profiled a year ago in their effort to tell the story of the biggest financial mess in recent memory.
A little over a year ago, NPR and This American Life partnered on a series of stories that would explain the mortgage crisis. They called it the “Giant Pool of Money”, and you can listen to the original This American Life program here. The program they made had such a big impact, that NPR/TAL ended up creating a team at NPR focused on money and finance, called Planet Money.
This past week, the Planet Money team revisisted many of the folks who they interviewed for that first show–people we have come to see as archetypes in the mortgage crisis: borrowers, subprime lenders, and those who created the complex financial instruments which repackaged debt in a way that hid the risk of that debt.
You can hear some of these characters…two of the borrowers are here:
An update on subprime lender Glen Pizzalaruso, who was making $100K a month at the height of the crisis, is here:
Last week I blogged about Bobbi Giguere, the 41 year-old single mom who had the unusual opportunity to grill a Wells Fargo Exec in court about her stalled loan modification. Giguere had been working “through the system” for months, and getting nowhere (…well, she was actually headed somewhere….While Wells Fargo strung her along, the company was simultaneously moving to foreclose on her home…!) At her wits end, Giguere wrote to her bankruptcy judge and ended up getting to do what thousands of frustrated consumers can only dream about. Confront someone in charge:
Bobbi Giguere joined us today on KNPR’s State of Nevada to continue the conversation. We were also joined by Nevada Bankers Association president Bill Uffelman, and Bill Buzenberg, Executive Director of the Center for Public Integrity:
With unemployment 13.4%, any new jobs in Vegas are good jobs in Vegas. Last week, we heard about the bleak prospects on KNPR’s State of Nevada–a discussion with two LA Times writers about people who are currently looking for work in Las Vegas.
But yesterday in Vegas we had a little bit o’ good news: A story about the chosen few among some 160,000 applicants who went after jobs at city center. On hand at the MGM Mirage press event were (of course) select hires, including 23 year-old Mollie Ehrman. Ehrman was profiled in yesterday’s Las Vegas Sun article about the new hires.
Add to that number the estimated underemployed people in the city, and it’s likely that one-quarter of Las Vegas working people are struggling to make ends meet.
Yesterday on State of Nevada, we talked about the human cost of a city full of people looking for work. And the contrast between now and yesterday, when Las Vegas was a wellspring of employment opportunity. Guests included a pair of LA Times writers, and I played interview tape from a job fair at the Hard Rock Casino in June. The desperation among many in line was palpable then. I can only imagine what it is now.
And here’s a snip from an article on the new jobless rate in today’s Las Vegas Sun:
This article, from Reuters:
The federal government and states are girding themselves for the next foreclosure crisis in the country’s housing downturn: payment option adjustable rate mortgages that are beginning to reset.
“Payment option ARMs are about to explode,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said….”That’s the next round of potential foreclosures in our country,”…
Option-ARMs are now considered among the riskiest offered during the recent housing boom and have left many borrowers owing more than their homes are worth. These “underwater” mortgages have been a driving force behind rising defaults and mounting foreclosures.
In Arizona, 128,000 of those mortgages will reset over the the next year and many have started to adjust this month, the state’s attorney general, Terry Goddard, told Reuters after the meeting.
“It’s the other shoe,” he said. “I can’t say it’s waiting to drop. It’s dropping now.”
Las Vegas has the worst housing market in the country; casinos and construction companies are slashing jobs. Among the thousands of Californians who flocked to Las Vegas during the boom times, many are now headed home. And thousand of un (or under) employed people are scouring the city to find work.
Today, producer Adam Burke joined Dave Berns on SoN, as part of KNPR’s continuing coverage of the economy in southern Nevada, and the continuation of our series: Belonging Las Vegas.
We discussed the current state of employment (and unemployment) with Ashley Powers and Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times. They wrote an excellent two-part series on the economic meltdown in southern Nevada. She focused on the people who are looking for work in Vegas, in a piece called: Vegas Dreamers Go All In. A follow-up story on the Vegas economy, is called Luck runs out on Vegas boom.
Adam shared some of the stories he’s been hearing from people who are desperately looking for work, and played audio he gathered at a job fair at the Hard Rock Casino in June.
The segment ran between 10 and 10:30 am PST. You can listen here:
…one optimistic, one less-so. The Washington Post has a story on a UCLA study, that predicts the recession will last for awhile yet:
The quarterly UCLA Anderson Forecast released Wednesday predicts the state’s jobless rate will jump to 12.2 percent later this year – up from 11.9 percent in July – and will continue in double digits into 2011.
A summary says the nation’s economy is recovering but the state will remain mired in recession longer because it relies heavily on the slumping housing and financial industries. Budget problems also may cost many government jobs.
However, economists from the University of California, Los Angeles predict Silicon Valley’s economy will improve thanks to federal stimulus money and increased tech exports.
Signs are increasing that an economic turnaround has begun in Southern California, even as residents and businesses continue to struggle in the worst downturn in decades.
The state’s exports are growing as overseas consumers, especially those in Asia, are demanding computers, electronics and agricultural products from California. Tourists are starting to return to the region’s hotels and beaches. And home prices appear to be stabilizing in some of the Southland’s hardest-hit markets.
“All of the indicators are that the recession is over with, even in California,” said Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast.
From the website Daily Yonder:
Declining housing prices, combined with a sharp rise in high-cost loans, were important factors in the recent mortgage and foreclosure crisis that has affected metro and non-metro housing markets alike. The most recent data show that non-metro residents were slightly more likely than metro residents to have obtained high-cost loans just prior to the recession.
Temp jobs on the rise in Las Vegas….article in the Sun calls this an early indicator.
There are two factors potentially at play, said Brian Gordon, principal at Applied Analysis, an economic consulting firm.
One is that employers are starting to see increased demand and are seeking temporary workers as they feel out the market. Another reason might be that when companies laid off employees, they let too many go and are now short-handed, he said.
Nothing like a story like this to spark more populist anger at banks:
Bernard L. Madoff’s massive fraud stunned some of the wealthy denizens of Malibu Colony, especially when a couple devastated by the scheme surrendered their oceanfront home to Wells Fargo Bank.
But some neighbors say the real shocker came when they saw one of the bank’s top executives spending weekends in the $12-million beach house and hosting eye-catching parties there.
Paul Krugman’s recent article from the New York Times Magazine:
It’s hard to believe now, but not long ago economists were congratulating themselves over the success of their field. Those successes — or so they believed — were both theoretical and practical, leading to a golden era for the profession…
…Few economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field’s problems. More important was the profession’s blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy.
…and it seems that real estate oracles throughout the Las Vegas valley are becoming cagey and moderate in their market predictions.
We’ve heard over and over that home prices have “hit bottom”, when it’s now painfully clear that no one really knows what “bottom” is. Think those in the business of peddling advice have learned any lessons? Check out the padded prediction here:
The chances are growing less likely that Las Vegas median home prices will fall to $100,000, according to a Las Vegas housing analyst.
But no one should expect prices to shoot up anytime soon despite a lack of inventory, said Larry Murphy, president of SalesTraq, a housing research firm.
“It appears prices have stopped falling,” Murphy said. “It’s possible that prices could fall further and hit $100,000 by the end of the year, but I don’t think that will happen.”
This, snipped from an Aug. 3, 2009 article from the Las Vegas Sun. And a recent State of Nevada conversation on real estate prices: