Conference Board Says Economy Could Lose Another 2 Million Jobs This Year

But it's important to note statistics' lag time, Bill notes in his blog, Ear to the Ground

February 15, 2009

The Conference Board just issued its latest

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Employment Trends Index, and it's more nasty news. The index now stands at 99.6, decreasing 1.6 percent from the November revised figure of 101.2 and down almost 16 percent from a year ago. It's been declining for 17 months.

In its press release, the Board quotes senior economist Gad Levanon saying, “During 2008, total non-farm employment declined by more than 2.5 million and the sharp declines ... suggest that in 2009 this number could grow by another 2 million.”

My only caution on this is that, although we are now in a digital age when information seems to travel at the speed of light, these statistical measures still have a huge time lag built into them. We knew a lot of housing markets were in trouble at the end of 2005, which is a lot more than 17 months ago. Just recall the days when your own sales reports told you there was a big problem, but local consumer media outlets were still trumpeting that the overall economy was in great shape.

The problem, of course, is that when these headlines hit the Web sites, it makes it that much harder to sell houses. And the only way we get positive headlines is if we do sell houses and create jobs. The good news is that statistics like these projections from the Conference Board, which has been doing this for 90 years and has a lot of credibility, will carry major weight on Capitol Hill. We'll get some kind of action from Congress before spring, although I have my doubts that the stimulus package will put the taxpayers' money in the right place.

An interesting twist to this: I'm starting to hear land developers talk about seeking land positions to benefit from the impending “Obama Boom,” and one of the things they're discussing is land adjacent to military bases. Some of them seem to believe there's going to be an immediate need for affordable ownership housing for military families.

Just remember, you'll know there's a housing recovery in the works long before the Conference Board tells you. Or we could all just go back to working on the farm!

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