Monday, September 21, 2009

Forecast Predicts Nashville Job Market Will Recover in 2012

According to this Nashville Business Journal article, Nashville predicted to recover in 2012, the Nashville metropolitan job market will return to pre-recession job levels in 2012 along with Memphis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York City, Boston and 12 other metropolitan areas. According to the article Austin and San Antonio in Texas will recover in 2010 and Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston and 6 other metropolitan areas will recover in 2011.

While all this sounds good, I am reasonably certain that it is not correct if by "pre-recession job levels" they are referring to the 4.5-5.5% unemployment rates that were the norm from 2004-2006. Those unemployment levels would certainly be welcome given that we now live in the era of 10%+ unemployment levels (10.8% for the state of TN in August 2009 according to the Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development James Neeley). Unfortunately, I cannot see how that can happen. The low unemployment rates of 2004-2006 were 70%+/- fueled by consumer spending that enabled businesses to sell products and services and, therefore, hire more employees. That consumer spending was enabled by cheap and easy to obtain debt (think HELOC's, credit cards, auto loans, personal loans, etc.). That debt is now largely gone, or at least significantly reduced.

Therefore, my problem with this article's rosy "pre-recession job levels" prediction is that it does not make sense. How can we return to "pre-recession job levels" if the consumer spending that created that low unemployment no longer exists? The answer is we can't and job levels will not return to "pre-recession job levels" for many, many years. I predict that unemployment rates will drop (i.e. the job market will improve), but the unemployment rates will stabilize at around 6.0-8.0%.

This will all negatively impact housing prices and ensure that foreclosures and short sales remain at relatively high levels for the next several years even after the job market recovers. Simply put, less people will be employed and, as a result, there will be less home buyers.