The latest population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Arizona and Greater Phoenix are growing more rapidly than most places. But, the absolute rate continues to be slow by historic standards. Maricopa County accounts for the bulk of the population growth in the State. The Southern Arizona housing market continues to improve, but, at a much slower rate than in Greater Phoenix. Retail sales in the State were up strongly in April with information, clothing, building materials and motor vehicle sales leading the way in the year over year comparisons.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance continued to show moderate improvement as did new orders for durable goods. Total existing home sales continued to show improvement and median prices of existing homes continued to increase. New home sales and prices followed the same trends as existing homes.
The latest population data for mid-year estimates as of July 1, 2012 show that Maricopa County grew by 73,644 or 1.9%. While this is very slow by historic standards, it shows an improving trend following the Great Recession. Pima County grew by a modest 0.5% and Pinal County grew by 1.0%. Within Maricopa County in terms of the top ten largest cities, Gilbert was the fastest growing city in percentage terms (3.4%) followed by Chandler (2.5%). The City of Phoenix is ranked as the 6th largest city in the U.S. and, according to the Census Bureau, grew by 1.7%. In terms of all cities in the U.S., Buckeye was one of the fastest growing cities with populations over 50,000.
The Southern Arizona housing market continued to show moderate improvement. Median resale prices were up 10.7% over a year ago to $164,900 while median new home prices were up 12.0% to $239,700. A total of 172 new homes were permitted in the Greater Tucson area. This is up 21.1% over a year ago. Foreclosures were down about 31% from a year ago.
Retail sales in April were up a strong 8.2% over a year ago. Leading the way were information, clothing, building materials and motor vehicles. Year to date, retail sales are up 7.3%.
Initial claims for unemployment insurance were 340,000. This continues the moderate decline that has taken place over the last few months. Last week’s figure was 8.4% below a year ago. New orders for manufactured durable goods in April increased $7.2 billion or 3.3%. This increase, up two of the last three months, followed a 5.9% decrease in March.
Existing home sales in April were 9.7% above year earlier levels and about flat with March levels. Median home prices for existing homes now stand 11.0% above year earlier levels to $192,000 compared to $173,700 a year ago and $183,900 in March. New home sales were up 16.8% in April compared to a year ago and were about flat with March. Median new home prices were up 14.9% over the last year to $271,600. This, combined with a rising stock market, should make consumers feel better and create a situation where fewer home owners are under water. All of this is good news.