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Local Economic Index Shows Spike In Unemployment Claims, Median Home Prices

Tallahassee Economic Index

After a strong start to the year, local economic growth has hit a snag in key sectors, according to the Tallahassee Economic Index.

The index weighs growth or decline in different economic indicators based on their market impact. The indicator it weighs most heavily is initial claims for unemployment assistance.

Lance Mitchell is the Tallahassee Economic Index’s director of research.

“That was about the most claims that we have seen for the month of May going all the way back to 2015,” Mitchell said of the most recent claim numbers.

Numbers from May show initial unemployment claims spiked nearly 70 percent since April, and are up 8 percent since last year.

Another indicator that carries significant weight is new home construction, which fell about 45 percent since last month.

“These are new homes being built, not renovations, but actual, from-the-ground-up new homes,” Mitchell explained. “That is obviously a very leading indicator on not only housing, but when you look at people spending money for construction materials, or furnishing inside of the home, appliances – when people build a new home a lot of new things have to be bought.”

Mitchell says month-to-month numbers for new home construction can be volatile, often seeing large percentage changes. Since last year, though, new homes are up more than 12 percent. There’s more good news out of the report, including numbers from Tallahassee International Airport.

“The airport and airport traffic has been trending up. Obviously that’s a stronger consumer that’s not as price-conscious as they used to be. Also I think they have some new routes from the airport,” Mitchell said.

Another notable statistic from the index’s most recent data is median price of existing homes rising to the highest they’ve ever been for the month of May.