Existing-home sales back down from recent peak
Although existing-home sales enjoyed a four-year peak in August, September saw a slight decline of 1.9% in the amount of homes sold, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Total existing-home sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.29 million, compared to a downwardly revised 5.39 million in August. However, September’s numbers still mark a 10.7% improvement over year-ago figures of 4.78 million.
Of these, single-family home sales were down 1.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million, compared to 4.75 million in August.
Home prices managed to strengthen in September despite the downward progress, with tightened inventory driving prices up. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $199,200 in September, up 11.7% year-over-year.
“Affordability has fallen to a five-year low as home price increases easily outpaced income growth,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Expected rising mortgage interest rates will further lower affordability in upcoming months. Next month we may see some delays associated with the government shutdown.”
Nationally, the sharpest home price increases over 2012 were in Detroit, Las Vegas and Sacramento.
Distressed homes made up 14% of September sales, compared to 12% in August (a five-year low). The NAR reports that this is another contributing factor in median price growth.
Total housing inventory was virtually unchanged at 2.21 million existing homes available for sale — a 5.0-month supply compared to August’s 4.9-month supply.
NAR president Gary Thomas said that though the effects of the government shutdown were not apparent in September’s report, next month’s sales may suffer from the various impacts of the 16-day ordeal, including delays in tax transcripts needed for approval of mortgage loans.
Unemployment hits five-year low, but jobs fall short
At 7.2%, September’s unemployment figures were at a five-year low, but job growth came in lower than expected at 148,000.
The amount of long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more) was virtually the same at 4.1 million and made up 36.9% of unemployed Americans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which had experienced a 16-day delay in releasing its figures due to the government shutdown.
The civilian labor force participation rate (63.2%) and the employment-population ratio (58.6%) were virtually unchanged as well.
Those marginally attached to the workforce (2.3 million, compared with last year’s 2.5 million) were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey.
In the construction sector, 20,000 jobs were added in September after minimal movement over the past six months. Manufacturing showed little change.
October’s jobs report is now scheduled to be released Nov. 8 at 8:30 a.m., as opposed to its original release date of Nov. 1.
EPA awards top honors to Lowe’s
Lowe’s came away with some of the highest honors in environmental stewardship from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The retailer was recognized for its freight transportation practices and water-efficient products campaign with a 2013 SmartWay Excellence Award and a 2013 WaterSense Sustained Excellence Award.
"The awards we received this year are a culmination of sustained and dedicated progress, and reflect our company’s commitment to continually improve our performance while we provide our customers the products they need to do the same," said Michael Chenard, Lowe’s director of corporate sustainability. "We’re proud to be our customers’ first choice for efficient products while we help control their costs through a more efficient supply chain."
The retailer has made efforts to reduce transportation-related emissions and improve fuel efficiency, most recently by dedicating a fleet of natural gas-powered trucks at one of its Texas distribution centers.
Additionally, Lowe’s has been promoting its WaterSense products since joining the program in 2008 as part of a concerted effort to help customers lower utility bills and conserve water. According to the company, the EPA estimates that Lowe’s WaterSense sales in 2012 were equivalent to $35 million in savings for customers, as well as four billion gallons of conserved water.
Lowe’s also received a 2013 Energy Star Partner of the Year Award in March. With the addition of the SmartWay and WaterSense awards, Lowe’s is now the only retail partner to receive all three EPA distinctions.