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Economic Optimism Improves Overall in Eighth District

Thursday, September 29, 2016
burgundy books

Optimism about the 2016 economic outlook improved overall among Eighth District contacts, according to the latest issue of the Burgundy Books.

  • In the Little Rock Zone, optimism about the local economic outlook this year improved appreciably relative to three months earlier.
  • Similar to three months earlier, a majority of contacts in the Louisville Zone expect local economic conditions in 2016 to be better than a year earlier.
  • Memphis Zone contacts indicated slightly less optimism about the outlook for local economic conditions in 2016 than was reported three months earlier.
  • Optimism about this year’s local economic outlook improved modestly in the St. Louis Zone compared with three months earlier.


The Little Rock Zone’s unemployment rate averaged 3.8 percent in the second quarter, its lowest rate on record. Payroll employment growth remained positive.

Payroll employment growth exceeded the nation’s pace in most areas of the Louisville Zone in the second quarter. Contacts reported that the demand for labor is putting upward pressure on wages and salaries.

The Memphis Zone’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in the second quarter, down 1.3 percentage points from its average in the first quarter. This is its lowest rate since 2001.

Labor market conditions throughout the St. Louis Zone have remained positive. Employment growth stayed moderate, while anecdotal evidence suggests that the labor market has been tightening.


Housing activity remained strong across most areas of the Little Rock Zone in the second quarter. With the exception of the Hot Springs metropolitan statistical area (MSA), single-family building permits grew at double-digit rates on a year-to-date basis. Year-over-year house price gains, however, were in the low single-digit range on average.

Regarding the Louisville Zone, single-family building permits in the Louisville, Clarksville and Evansville MSAs increased sharply in the second quarter, but fell modestly in Elizabethtown. Real estate contacts report vigorous construction activity in the Zone’s industrial space, which may be partially attributable to the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Residential real estate activity continued to strengthen in the Memphis Zone in the second quarter. Single-family building permits rose strongly across the Zone, while year-to-date home sales in the Memphis MSA increased 9 percent from 2015.

Housing and commercial real estate activity continued to strengthen in most areas of the St. Louis Zone in the second quarter. Sales of new and existing homes rose rapidly in the St. Louis MSA, while single-family building permits posted double-digit percentage increases in Springfield and Columbia.

Household Finances

Per capita automotive debt balances in the Little Rock Zone rose nearly 9.5 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, far outpacing the national rate of 7.7 percent. Meanwhile, per capita credit card debt rose 4.6 percent, nearly triple the national rate of 1.6 percent.

In the Louisville Zone, per capita automotive debt balances continued to rise at rates that exceeded the national rate. Real per capita personal income growth in Indiana and Kentucky was appreciably stronger than the national average in the first quarter.

Per capita automotive debt in the Memphis Zone grew 8.5 percent in the second quarter, outpacing the nation’s growth of 7.7 percent.

Household financial conditions remained stable, as mortgage, credit card and automotive loan delinquency rates remained lower in the St. Louis Zone than in the nation during the second quarter.

Additional Resources

Posted In FinancialHousingLabor  |  Tagged burgundy booksemploymenthousingreal estateconsumer debteconomic outlook