Unemployment, Distressed Home Sales in Cali Dip; Uptick in Bank Failures

In March, 26 states and D.C. enjoyed unemployment rate decreases. The trend in distressed California home sales has been moving in a more positive direction. And there was a rash of bank failures on Friday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that in March, 26 states and D.C. enjoyed unemployment rate decreases, seven states suffered increases, and 17 states had no change. Compared with March 2012, some 39 states and D.C. saw unemployment rate decreases, eight states had increases, and three states experienced no change.

Alaska, Florida, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia had the largest declines in unemployment for the month (down 0.3 percent each) in terms of percentage. The largest month-over-month increases in raw numbers of jobs happened in Florida, which gained 32,700 jobs, and California (up 25,500 jobs), the BLS calculated. The largest month-over-month decrease in employment occurred in Ohio (which lost 20,400 jobs), followed by Illinois (down 17,800).

Nevada still has the unfortunate distinction of suffering the highest unemployment rate among the states in March, coming in at 9.7 percent. That’s better than recessionary highs well into double-digits, but it’s still a high rate. The next highest rates among the states were in Illinois (9.5 percent) and then California and Mississippi (9.4 percent each). Energy-booming North Dakota once again was the state with the lowest jobless rate, coming in at 3.3 percent. 

Distressed Homes Sale Plunge in California

A bellwether state in many ways, California has typically been a trend setter in distressed residential real estate sales. That wasn’t a happy trend back in the mid- to late 2000s, when a stream of distressed sales turned into a torrent, depressing prices across the board. More recently, however, the trend in distressed California home sales has been moving in a more positive direction, according to DataQuick, a California-based real estate data specialist.

Of the existing homes sold in March, the company reported on Friday, 15.2 percent were properties foreclosed on during the past year–the lowest level since foreclosure resales were 12.6 percent of the market in September 2007, just as the housing bubble was beginning to pop. Foreclosure resales peaked at 58.8 percent in February 2009. The March 2013 figure compares with 18 percent in February 2013 and 32.8 percent during March 2012.

Short sales made up an estimated 21.5 percent of California homes that resold in March, according to DataQuick. That was down from an estimated 22.4 percent the month before and 24.5 percent in March 2013. The company also reported that median price paid for a home in California in March—distressed as well as ordinary—was $313,000, up 8.3 percent from February and up 24.7 percent from March 2012.

Uptick in Bank Failures

There was a rash of U.S. bank failures on Friday (that is, closures by the FDIC), but in the context of 2013, that means only three banks–one in Kentucky and two in Florida. That makes eight bank failures so far this year, still a small number compared to any year since 2007.

Wall Street ended Friday up somewhat, compared to the downward trend of most of the week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 10.37 points, or only 0.07 percent. The other major indices moved more: the S&P 500 up 0.88 percent, and the Nasdaq up 1.25 percent.