NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- There’s been an avalanche of economic data pouring in the past week that provides more clarity about the U.S. housing market, which seems to be improving somewhat as 2012 beckons. Here are some of the key stats:
Foreclosures down since 2010. On Thursday, Lender Processing Services released its monthly look at the U.S. foreclosure landscape, and that look reveals a healthier market, at least on a year-to-year basis. LPS says foreclosures are now down 30% from their January 2010 peak, but adds that that could be just a lull in the action. It notes that “foreclosures in process” are still high, with foreclosures comprising 4.29% of all U.S. mortgages.
Unemployment down – with a caveat. The U.S. housing market depends heavily on the employment market. When unemployment is low, more money is flowing through the economy and consumers are more likely to buy and renovate their homes. Conversely, when the jobless rate is high, consumers grow anxious and put off any big housing decisions, and lenders are more inclined to snap their purses shut until the sun comes out again. This month’s number, released this morning by the U.S. Labor Department, showed the U.S. unemployment rate officially falling to 8.6%, as the private sector added 120,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.
But the federal government has a unique way of accounting for jobs. For example, this month 315,000 American adults stopped looking for work. But according to Uncle Sam, that‘s “good news” for the employment rate, which declines as a result of all those people leaving the workforce. But for consumers, the only number that matters is 8.6% – that should propel further spending for the holidays (as Americans see the economy as improving) and could give the housing market a shot in the arm, but probably only if December 2011 and January 2012 job numbers fall in line with the number that the Labor Department released today.