Another month meant another increase in the Greater Waco Economic Index, with spending, employment and home sales leading the way in July.
The index hit 112.1 in July, which is only a tenth of a point increase from June, but the showing represents 18 consecutive months of climbing “as the post-recession expansion in the Greater Waco metro area economy continues,” Amarillo economist Karr Ingham said.
Ingham prepares the monthly report for the First National Bank of Central Texas and the Tribune- Herald.
“That’s good news, but not particularly surprising,” First National chairman Monte Hulse said in a phone interview Wednesday.
He said bank demand for commercial loans remains steady and he is hearing positive reports from local real estate agents.
“I talked with an agent this morning who said if you get a listing now, and the home is priced to sell, it won’t stay on the market long,” Hulse said. “I’m hearing we’re having activity all over, but especially in the Woodway area. I expect that to continue as long as interest rates remain attractive.”
Specifically, Ingham reported a 5.4 percent increase in the number of existing homes sold in July compared to the same month last year.
Through July, 1,351 existing homes have changed hands, which is 11.1 percent more than during the first seven months of 2012.
“Only construction and home building were lower in July compared to year-ago levels; all other indicators used in the calculation of the Greater Waco Economic Index posted year-over-year increases, and the all-important areas of general real spending and employment continue to improve,” Ingham said in his report.
He said the bottom line is that the index continues to set records, with July besting June, which had topped the previous high of 111.7 set in August 2007.
Highlights of the report, for which Ingham has accumulated data since 2000, include the following:
Inflation-adjusted taxable spending was up 3.1 percent compared to July 2012, which in turn was up 7.5 percent from July the previous year.
So far this year, retail spending has reached $1.26 billion in Waco and nine surrounding communities, including McGregor and West. That is a 3.9 percent hike.
The private sector created 2,400 jobs in McLennan County during the past year, while government jobs fell by 200 positions.
Employment growth in July was 2.1 percent, the lowest for any month this year, “but is averaging a respectable 2.5 percent for the year-to-date,” Ingham said.
Sales of new and used vehicles were up 15 percent from July last year, which were up 7 percent from the previous year.
Permits for construction totaled a “respectable” $17.7 million in July, Ingham said, but were dwarfed by the $74 million the same month last year. Likewise, the $451 million total so far this year is skewed by the $260 million permit for construction of the new Baylor Stadium on Lake Brazos.
A total of 32 building permits were issued in July for single-family home construction, a slight drop from the 37 in July 2012.
A total of 239 permits were issued through July, a 17.2 percent increase from the same period last year.