Money Odds & Ends

MMAC’s economic indicators show more pain
A weak trend continued among local business activity indicators in August, as only five of 20 August indicators registered improvement from year-ago levels, according to the latest economic report by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC).

August’s five improvements rank lower than the six improved indicators posted for July and continue a nearly year long trend (since November, 2007) in which less than half of indicators tracked have shown improvements.

"The events of the past couple weeks do not bode well for any short-term improvement in metro area economic activity," said Bret Mayborne, economic research director for the MMAC. "It is more probable that this weak overall economic trend will continue through the remainder of 2008 and into 2009’s first quarter."

Notable among the latest indicators:

  • The rate of job decline for the metro area grew larger in August. Employment fell at a 0.9-percent pace in August, up from the 0.4-percent decline recorded in July (vs. one year ago). The net loss in jobs in August from the same month a year ago totaled 7,700.

  • Three of 10 major industry sectors registered August job gains (vs. one year ago), while seven posted declines. The largest percentage increase was posted in the government sector (up 4.6 percent over year-ago levels). Conversely, a 3.7-percent job decline was posted both in the construction, mining & natural resources and leisure & hospitality sectors, the largest decreases registered. 

  • Passenger activity levels at Mitchell International Airport rose for the 17th consecutive month vs. year ago levels. Passenger totals rose 7 percent in August to 790,284. 

  • New unemployment compensation claims rose for the sixth consecutive month vs. year-ago levels, up 19 percent in August to 6,005. 

  • Existing home sales in the metro area fell at a 19.6-percent pace (to 1,155), after posting an 8.8-percent fall in July (vs. July, 2007). Mortgages recorded in Milwaukee County fell at a 40.8-percent pace (to 2,954) in August, this indicator’s 22nd consecutive month of year-over-year decline and the largest such decrease posted during this period. 

  • New car registrations fell 23 percent in August to 2,880, the strongest year-over-year decline posted over the first eight months of 2008. 

  • The value of signed construction contracts, as reported by F.W. Dodge for July, was $174.9 million, up 18.7 percent from July, 2007. 

  • The Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers in the Milwaukee area reached 201.955 for the first half of 2008, a 4.8-percent increase from the first half of 2007. 

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