Many business contacts in the Eighth Federal Reserve District expected local economic conditions to be better in 2015 than in 2014, according to the St. Louis Fed’s most recent Burgundy Books.
Specifically, more than half of respondents in the St. Louis, Little Rock and Louisville zones expected local economic conditions to be improved in 2015 over the previous year. The percentage of Memphis Zone respondents who expected better conditions greatly surpassed the percentage who expected conditions to worsen.
The unemployment rate for the St. Louis Zone was 5.7 percent in the first quarter. Among St. Louis Zone metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), Columbia (2.7 percent), Springfield (2.2 percent), Cape Girardeau (1.8 percent), St. Louis (0.9 percent) and Jefferson City (0.1 percent) all experienced employment growth.
The Little Rock Zone’s unemployment rate inched up in the first quarter to 5.6 percent from 5.5 percent the previous quarter. Three of the Zone’s four MSAs had unemployment rates below the national average of 5.5 percent.
The unemployment rate in the Louisville Zone fell to 5.2 percent in the first quarter from 5.5 percent in the previous quarter. Total nonfarm payroll employment growth accelerated in most of the Zone’s MSAs.
The Memphis Zone’s unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since 2008, falling to 7.4 percent in the first quarter from 8.1 percent the previous quarter.
All major MSAs in the St. Louis Zone saw increases in home prices in the first quarter. The growth of house prices in the St. Louis MSA outpaced the national growth rate. In the St. Louis MSA, year-to-date home sales increased by 17.9 percent compared to one year ago.
Home prices and single-family building permits rose in most areas of the Little Rock Zone for the second consecutive quarter. Year-to-date home sales were up 8.5 percent in the Little Rock MSA.
Year-to-date home sales were up about 10 percent in the Louisville MSA, and home prices increased in the largest MSAs in the Zone. Building permits also rose in most Zone MSAs.
Home prices increased in two of the three MSAs in the Memphis Zone. Regarding commercial real estate in the Memphis MSA, vacancy rates dropped significantly for apartment properties and continued to decline for industrial properties.
Personal income growth rose in both Missouri and Illinois in the fourth quarter, climbing 2.9 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. The credit card delinquency rate increased in the St. Louis Zone to 6.8 percent during the first quarter of 2015, still lower than the national rate of 8.2 percent.
Arkansas’s personal income grew by 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter, nearly 2 percentage points faster than in the prior quarter. Auto debt balances in the Little Rock Zone continued to increase, while credit card balances remained essentially unchanged.
Personal income in Indiana grew 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter, matching the rate for the nation as a whole. In Kentucky, personal income grew faster (5.0 percent) than the national rate for the fifth consecutive quarter.
Personal income growth accelerated in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee in the fourth quarter of 2014. Mortgage and auto loan delinquency rates in the Memphis Zone in the first quarter were essentially unchanged from the previous quarter.