Economy Watch: Existing Home Sales, State Unemployment Rates

Total existing-home sales increased 2.4 percent in September. Thirty-one states experienced unemployment rate decreases in September compared with August.

The National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday that total U.S. existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops, increased 2.4 percent in September to an annualized rate of 5.17 million units, compared with 5.05 million units in August. Sales are now at their highest pace of 2014, but still remain 1.7 percent below the 5.26 million-unit level of September 2013.

All-cash sales were 24 percent of transactions in September, noted the Realtors, up slightly from August (23 percent) but down from 33 percent in September 2013. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in September, up from 12 percent last month but below September 2013 (19 percent). Sixty-three percent of investors paid cash in September.

Total housing inventory at the end of September fell 1.3 percent to 2.3 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.3-month supply at the current sales pace. Despite fewer homes for sale in September, unsold inventory is still 6 percent higher than a year ago, when there were 2.17 million existing homes available for sale, according to NAR.

State Unemployment Rates Mostly Down 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Tuesday that 31 states experienced unemployment rate decreases in September compared with August, eight states had increases, and 11 states and the District of Columbia saw no change. Forty-two states and D.C. had unemployment-rate decreases from a year earlier, five states suffered increases, and three states saw no change. The national jobless rate declined to 5.9 percent from August, which was 1.3 percentage points lower than in September 2013.

The largest month-over-month increases in employment occurred in Texas (a gain of 36,400 jobs), Illinois (up 19,300), and Colorado (up 14,600). The largest monthly loss of jobs happened in California (down 9,800 jobs), followed by Pennsylvania (down 9,600) and Virginia (down 7,400).

In September, seven states had significant monthly unemployment rate declines: Colorado and Kentucky (off 0.4 percentage points each); Nevada (down 0.3 points); and Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, and New York (down 0.2 points each). Vermont and Massachusetts had the only significant month-over-month unemployment rate increases, up 0.3 percentage points and 0.2 points, respectively.

Georgia had the unwanted distinction of having highest unemployment rate among the states in September, coming in at 7.9 percent. Once again, oil-rich North Dakota enjoyed the lowest jobless rate, coming in at 2.8 percent.

Wall Street rebounded more on Tuesday, perhaps inspired by the housing numbers, or maybe Apple’s strong numbers, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 215.14 points, or 1.31 percent. The S&P 500 was up 1.96 percent and the Nasdaq advanced a whopping 2.4 percent.