MMAC reports economic growth for region

Economic indicators in the metropolitan Milwaukee area continue to move forward, with a majority of August indicators improving over year-ago levels, according to the latest monthly report by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).

 
Sixteen of the MMAC’s 23 August indicators improved over year-ago levels, matching the revised 16 positive indicators posted in July.

“The local economy has gathered some momentum in the year’s middle months particularly among metro area employment and labor force indicators,” said Bret Mayborne, the MMAC’s economic research director. “Employment gains overall have strengthened in recent months and the number of industry sectors participating in the growth has broadened.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • Nonfarm employment in the metro area rose at a 1.3 percent pace in August (vs. year-ago levels), larger than the 0.9 percent increase posted in July and the strongest year-over-year job gain recorded since April, 2011.
  • Seven of 10 major industry sectors registered year-over-year job increases in August, with the construction, mining and natural resources sector posting the largest percentage gain, up 17.6 percent. Only two of ten major industry sectors posted employment declines, while jobs in the information sector were unchanged from year-ago levels.
  • After 12 consecutive months of year-over-year gains, new car registrations in the metro area have now fallen in two of the past three months. For August registrations fell at a 1 percent rate (vs. August, 2012).
  • Gains continued in metro area unemployment indicators. Unemployment compensation claims fell at a 5.7 percent pace (vs. year-ago levels) in August following July’s 9.6 percent drop (vs. July, 2012). The number of unemployed in August decreased 7.8 percent (to 55,700) vs. year-ago levels, the steepest year-over-year decline posted in the year-to-date. August’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell 0.7 percentage points from one year ago, to 6.9 percent. August’s rate ranks higher than the 6.2 percent rate recorded for the State of Wisconsin but below the nation’s 7.3 percent. Job growth in the metro area has improved in the past three months, averaging 1.1 percent on a year-over-year basis in the June to August period. This marks an improvement over the 0.3 percent to 0.4 percent gains posted in the March to May period. Employment averaged 837,400 in August, up 1.3 percent from one year ago.
  • Earnings and production related indicators in manufacturing posted mixed results. The length of the average workweek for manufacturing production workers fell 1.6 percent, to 42.3 hours, this indicator’s third year-over-year decline in four months. On the other hand average weekly earnings for such workers reached $789, up 3.4 percent, while average hourly earnings rose 5.1 percent, to $18.66. Both earnings gains surpassed consumer price inflation nationally (up 1.5 percent) over the same time period.
  • Among housing and real estate indicators tracked by the MMAC, existing home sales in the metro area posted a 12.7 percent increase (to 1,529). August’s gain is the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year growth. Increases have been posted in home sales in all but one of the past 26 months. Mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County numbered 2,862 for the month, a 7.1 percent decline from one year ago. August’s mortgage decline follows the 9.3 percent increase posted in July (vs. July, 2012).
  • New-car registrations fell 1 percent in August (to 2,962), this indicator’s second decline in the past three months. Yet for the year-to-date registrations are up 13.6 percent over the same point in 2012.
  • Air passenger totals for Mitchell International Airport numbered 593,184 in August, down  11.9 percent from year-ago levels.
  • The value of signed construction contracts, as reported by F.W. Dodge for July, was $114.7 million, down 7.8 percent from July, 2012.

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