This is not your father’s recovery


One person who heard Steve Hawkins’ interview with me last week on the Stevens Hawkins Show took the time to e-mail his response to my observation that local existing home sale prices and new home construction was slowly recovering.

His overarching opinion was he doesn’t see the recovery. He said his business was among those that went down during the recession, he sees more empty buildings  in Kingsport these days and that he never got the memo from Obama that the recession is over.

I don’t doubt that his observations are accurate.

This has been a spotty and uneven recovery. Many people who lost jobs have not found comparable jobs to replace them. More people are working one or two part-time jobs. While the number of local households with incomes in top tier of the Census Bureau’s income range have made a big increase, the number of households with incomes in the range of $40,000 to $75,000 took a big hit.

And yes, there are empty store fronts. I haven’t checked the occupancy rates for commercial real estate for a while but that’s an upcoming item for a Business Journal article.

I also know some young people with degrees and others with trade certifications who can’t find jobs in their fields or complain that the jobs in their trades are not offering the pay being offered in other areas.

None of this is an exaggeration.

The recovery is not a robust recovery. It’s still very fragile and has restructured the economy, housing, retail and industrial economy as we used to know it.

My former trade is an example. Publishers and station managers have slashed local information sector jobs by almost 50% from what they were the year before the recession began. There have been some hires to fill in some of those spots. And yes, those jobs pay considerably less because many who were laid off were senior people in the upper end of the pay scale. The same is true in other job sectors and it’s been the mode for recovery for all recessions – not just this one.

No one will pretend that we’re seen or we’ve seen a robust local recovery, but it’s hard to deny there is a recovery.

The average prices paid for existing homes has increased from their lows in the recession and is very near pre-recession levels. That observation comes from three separate agencies that look at the local housing industry. New home construction was hit hard and is still under performing pre-recession levels by 30%. But it is slowly improving. Several builders have told me this year is the best they’ve had since 2009.

Last month the City of Kingsport reported licenses for 22 new businesses.

The Census Bureau reported 1,167 more Kingsport residents reported they had jobs in July than the reporting number in July 2008. That’s better than what I see in most other local jurisdictions. And, the average weekly pay for private sector employees in Kingsport-Bristol is ahead of the inflation curve based on a 2008 benchmark.

Yes, it is an uneven recovery. Some have done very well, but there’s no question many have been left out. I know. I’m one of those trying to get a footing on that recovery.

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