April Fools’ Jobs Report – April 4, 2016

ECONOMIC COMMENTARY
April Fools’ Jobs ReportWe personally do not think that the government’s employment report should be released on what is known as April Fools’ Day. However, this is how the calendar is aligned this year and we doubt the government is about to change their minds, because that would be “tomfoolery,” if you would excuse the pun. Actually, writing this sentence prompted us to do research on the concepts of April Fools’ Day and tomfoolery, and it turns out that their origins are both attributed in history to Europe, but there is more than one theory about their actual origins. Suffice to say that the concept of April Fools’ Day precedes that of our employment report.

Today, the employment report is a bit more significant than April Fools’ Day, and with the Federal Reserve Board set to meet at the end of April, they will have plenty of time to absorb this data before deciding whether to raise interest rates again. The markets did not have to wait that long and the market’s initial reaction to the report was positive, though the report itself was mixed. Over 200,000 jobs were created, but there was an uptick in the unemployment rate to 5.0% from 4.9%, and only a slight movement in wage growth.

While many will view an increase in the unemployment rate a negative, when we look deeper at the data, we can see that the increase in unemployment was a direct correlation in the labor force participation rate. In other words, more have decided to rejoin the workforce and this is encouraging for the economy. Because of the low participation rate, as well as millions working part-time but desiring full-time positions, there is plenty of room for us to add jobs without overheating the economy. Hopefully the Fed will see it that way when they review the data as well.

REAL ESTATE NEWS
 More home owners are adopting smart-home technology, and that will likely impact buyers’ purchase decisions in the future, according to a new joint survey of about 4,000 Americans by Coldwell Banker and CNET. Twenty-eight percent of respondents say they own at least one smart-home product, and nearly half of millennials, ages 18 to 34, say they plan to adopt smart-home technology. Of those who currently use it, 81 percent say they would be more likely to buy a home if smart products — such as connected lighting and thermostats, remote-access security, and smart locks — were already installed. “Smart-home technology is catching on because it is literally changing the way we live in our homes,” says Sean Blankenship, chief marketing officer for Coldwell Banker. “Not only is it shifting the financial perception of the home, but it’s also transforming our emotional connection to our homes. We believe that in three to five years, home buyers will expect smart-home technology — it will become the new norm.” Eighty-seven percent of smart-home owners say the technology makes their lives easier, and more than half say it saves them time (an average of nearly 30 minutes per day). Forty-five percent also say that, on average, they’ve saved more than $1,000 a year with smart-home technology. Also among the survey’s findings: 76 percent of those with smart-home products say they control them via a mobile device. Fifty-one percent say the living room is the most common place for smart-home technology, followed by the bedroom at 45 percent; family/rec room at 35 percent; and kitchen at 30 percent. Source: Caldwell Banker Real EstateForget what you’ve read about the millennial generation not buying homes in the suburbs. The latest surveys show they are, and not only that, they are leaving a powerful footprint on the feel of suburbia. Millennials make up one-third of buyers nationwide, and represent the largest segment of all home buyers, according to research from the National Association of Realtors®. “Their buying power is huge,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR’s managing director of survey research. “They are definitely a force in the market. They are overtaking the baby boomers.” They are moving out of city centers, bypassing the small starter properties in the city in favor of larger homes in the suburbs – just like previous generations before them have, notes Tommy Choi with Weinberg Choi Realty. In the suburbs, millennials are increasingly opting for very traditional homes too – a single-family, detached home with three bedrooms and two baths, Lautz says. They also are often purchasing older properties – which might be less expensive – and then remodeling these properties to match their style. When they do move out to the suburbs, they are showing a desire for the “anti-suburb suburb,” Alison Bernstein, founder of Suburban Jungle Realty, told MarketPlace. Bernstein says her clients want to hold onto at least some elements of the urban lifestyle even though they are in suburbia. Builders and cities are taking notice. For example, some communities are repurposing shopping malls and parking lots into green space. They’re creating retail hubs. They are also looking for ways to improve walkability and add more convenient access to public transportation. Source: MarketPlace

It’s an excellent time to be a landlord. Amid a U.S. recovery that has been frustratingly slow for most folks, property owners’ share of the economic pie has grown larger than at any point in the past seven decades. As just about anyone renting in a major U.S. city can attest, the past 10 years have produced a brutal squeeze in the property market. The subprime bust, stricter credit requirements, marriage-delaying millennials and weak income growth have added millions to the ranks of renters. Meanwhile, restrictive zoning laws and a lack of low-income housing construction have kept supply from keeping pace. The result has been a bonanza for anyone lucky enough to own rental property. According to the latest data from the Federal Reserve, property owners’ rental income — a number that includes the estimated benefit they gain from homes they occupy — added up to $168 billion in the last three months of 2015, or about 4.3 percent of U.S. national income. That’s up from just 1.5 percent at the beginning of 2007, and the highest level going back to 1946. Source: Bloomberg

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