Do you think things are getting any better?

Consider this another in my fitful efforts to gauge how the economy is coming along. Noting this item today:

Statewide home sales increase 13% in June

Monday, 20 July 2009
Staff Report
COLUMBIA – The number of homes sold in South Carolina rose for the second straight month. Nearly 4,200 homes were sold in June, an increase of 13% over May, according to the latest report from the S.C. Association of Realtors.

In May, home sales totaled 3,704, an increase of 16% over sales in April.

June’s figures also represent the best year-over-year showing so far this year, with just an 11.3% drop compared to June 2008 numbers.

Of the 15 regions reporting home sales for the association, 14 reported an increase in sales over May. The only area that reported a loss was the Southern Midlands Association of Realtors. It sold three more homes in May than it did in June, according to the report.

Of the state’s three major metropolitan areas, Greenville posted a 13.3% increase in June sales over May, followed by Columbia with a 10.5% increase and Charleston with a 9.4% increase, the report said.

The median price of homes in South Carolina was $147,000, up from $142,000 in May. The average number of days a home was on the market was 144, down from 155 in May.

For the full report, click here.

… which follows on news Friday that unemployment held steady, I wonder — do you see signs that things are starting to look up?

You can’t tell by me, since I still don’t have a job. For that matter, you can’t really tell by South Carolina. The state Board of Economic Advisors called for more state budget cuts last week.

But South Carolina lags, and I am a South Carolinian, so I guess that means I lag, too. Still, even I have seen positive signs in recent weeks — such as packed parking lots out in the Harbison area.

What are you seeing?

16 thoughts on “Do you think things are getting any better?

  1. SGMret

    What am I seeing? 45-50 degrees Celsius, wind, sand and dust….

    Oh, you mean economic forcast…

  2. DC

    Is the International Center for Automotive Research (ICAR) future in trouble under Obama? JEFF WILKINSON reported yesterday that “Legislation would restore hydrogen research funds”

    Takeaway: “[Even if restored] … the funding level would pale in comparison with the $1 billion being considered to research better batteries for electric cars, considered by many a quicker cure for the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.”

  3. Bart

    SGMret, can you let us know where you are in the ME? I was in Dubai years ago in the middle of the boom. Very interesting place. Part Western, mostly Muslim, and a mixture of other cultures.

    As for Brad’s question, based on my conversations within the construction industry and real estate market, while sales are up by small percentages, they represent buyers of opportunity for the most part. If you have cash, good credit, and a steady, somewhat secure job, it is a good time to buy a house and money is available on the local level. It is also a good time for “flippers” with cash on hand to buy up excellent bargains available at auctions and bank foreclosures.

    Available houses inventory, new or existing is still high and new starts do not equate to completions and permits are good for at least a year, so when some speculators buy housing permits, they are doing so looking months down the road. The money to build subdivisions is not readily available and about the only thing speculators can do is have permits available and then build on demand.

    If the backlog was growing in the form of available projects in the pipeline in significant numbers other than highway projects, that would be a sign the outlook is improving.

    At this point, other than sporadic bumps in select markets, it is difficult to see where there is any improvement pointing to a real indication the recession is ending.

    A healthy dose of optimism would be welcome but the reality of the situation does not warrant it. About the only thing we have is hope that at some point, the experiments conducted by the high schoolers running the show in DC comes to an end soon and the adults take control.

  4. doug_ross

    Hopefully, Obama will see the same result as Hillary did when she tried to overhaul healthcare and that will remove some stress from businesses.

    Yes, we need to reform the insurance industry so that people have portable access to healthcare with no limitations on pre-existing conditions. But do it through regulation or tax credits, not by taking over the whole system.

    Let’s not turn 1/6 of the American economy over to the same people who think stopping terrorism requires limiting shampoo bottles to 3.4 ounces on airplanes.

  5. Randy E

    My understanding is that many businesses welcome reform to avoid the crush of the weight of health care on their backs.

  6. doug_ross


    But just as many businesses and individuals who are happy with their insurance do not want to see it taken over by the government.

    I guarantee you that the majority of 80,000 employees of my company do not want to see a change in our insurance. Our co-pays went up by $5 this year and the base cost for my family went up by $1. If Obama’s plan costs us more and institutes any type of rationing of care, it’ll never make it. Wait til the soccer moms are told they can’t get the specific antibiotics they want for their kids’ ear infections. Game over.

  7. Lee Muller

    Big businesses which offer medical insurance as relic of World War II, avoiding FDR’s wage and price controls, would like end that employee benefit, but they want their competitors to end it at the same time.

    They support pushing their employees onto the taxpayers, and forcing small business competitors to have provide medical benefits, in order to hurt them. Most small businesses do not make enough profit in their best years to afford a sudden 8% payroll cost increase. They would have to cut salaries and wages by 8% to afford the Democrats’ mandates. If their employees are mostly at the (new higher) minimum wage, they cannot cut wages 8% or more, so they will have to work them harder, lay off any marginal or new employees, or simply go out of business.

  8. SGMret

    Sorry, Bart, but the company I work for and our clients are very particular about corporate proprietary and client confidentiality issues. No talking about where you are and who you’re working for while on the job and no discussion of clients off the job.

    I can say that there aren’t many places in the region that I haven’t been, including Dubai. Frankly, I find very little here that’s admirable either culturally or socially (or environmentally).

    Interesting segue on health insurance. I can say that I work for one of the largest defense companies on Planet Earth, and my employer avoids the issue of health insurance or any other benefits for me and my colleagues by designating us “Part Time, On-Call.” I do well without since I have a plan as part of my military retirement, but a lot of my younger co-workers are not so fortunate.

    At one time we were all independent contractors, and so most of us owned our own small businesses. However, the Federal Government and the IRS took issue with how our contracts were managed and forced all of the larger firms in our industry to cancel our contracts and “employ” us. (The reasons are complicated and completely tangential to the issue at hand except as an example of Big Government throwing its weight around.) The end result was, unfortunately, that all of us who were providing health insurance to ourselves and our families as part of our businesses were forced to cease the practice. This has left most of us paying out of pocket or piggy-backing on our spouses.

    And for those who tend toward socialized medicine: I can promise you that after you stand in line for about 3 hours at a local free government clinic to get registered as part of the Swine Flu Scare, your opinions of the value of “free” care will change. Forget about getting your favorite ear infection antibiotic, think about just getting an aspirin.

  9. Lee Muller

    SGret brings up a good point about which most wage slaves are completely unfamiliar – government forcing self-employed out of private insurance.

    Millions of self-employed and contract employees have the tax laws used against them, to deny them insurance.

    Big government types like Obama and most Democrats don’t like small business, don’t like the self-employed, and don’t like contract workers, either.

    The average private family medical plan costs $5,000 a year.

    Medicare and Medicaid cost $8,000 a year.

    The Democrats’ phony reform proposals project $12,000 a year.

    So they don’t even intend to save money. It is all about power, about controlling your life. Do you think the Democrats would allow Rush Limbaugh surgery for his loss of hearing? Hell, no.

    They will not only provide abortions with tax dollars, they intend to fund ALL abortions with tax dollars, and you can bet they will be telling couples they have to kill that baby with Down’s Syndrome or anything else that is going to cost the government money without producing another taxpayer.

  10. doug_ross

    Mayo Clinic has come out against the Democrats plan.

    I think the public is starting to understand that the devil they know is better than the Hell that the government would create.

    Incremental fixes are what we need:

    1) Tort reform to cut malpractice insurance and “defensive” medical practices

    2) Eliminate all advertising for prescription medicines

    3) Eliminate separate insurance boards in every state. Allow insurance companies to write policies anywhere but mandate that they take all customers regardless of pre-existing conditions. No policy can ever be cancelled.

    4) Make all medical charges available to the public. No negotiated rates between insurers and providers. No paying $7 for an aspirin.

    5) Everyone who wants healthcare needs to pay for it in some way. No free rides.

    6) Have serious discussions about the amount of money spent prolonging the lives of terminal patients.

  11. bud

    In response to Doug:

    Tort reform is nothing but a ruse to try and milk more money out of patients. If a doctor screws up he should have to pay.

    Advertising definitely should be banned on prescription medicines and other medical activities.

    With national health insurance we can eliminate all insurance boards.

    Again, with a public option we’ll quickly see the end of the $7 aspirin.

    It’s not a matter of whether you want healthcare or not. Sometimes it’s a necessity. It’s like saying “everyone who wants oxygen should pay for it. Some medical procedures should be 100% federally funded. Others should be partially paid. Still others should not involve government.

    Terminal patient issues are tough. But I agree we do need to address this.

  12. Bart

    Serious question. How is tort reform a ruse to milk more money out of patients?

    I don’t disagree that if a doctor screws up, he should pay but where do we draw the line in compensation to the victim?

    A hospital in Detroit has instituted a policy where doctors are required to admit mistakes and apologize. Their costs have dropped each year by almost 2/3 for malpractice payouts and lawsuits. Doctors are humans and will make mistakes. The problem is that when a doctor has his license revoked in one state, he or she can go to another and continue to practice.

    There are many things that need to be reformed and how doctors cover for each other is one and allowing a doctor to move from one state to another after losing their license is another.

  13. bud

    TRUE tort reform is not a ruse. What’s a ruse is GOP efforts to cap the amount of damages paid by doctors for even the worst malpractice. Those scoundrels should pay through the nose. I’m not talking about the good doctors who miss on a very difficult diagnosis or slip up in a complicated surgery that may require more follow-up than necessary. What I’m referring to are quacks who continue to ruin patients lives and only would get a slap on the wrist if the GOP gets its way. The legal system has a way of ferrating out the worst of practices. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Or worse, keep the bathwater and throw out the baby.

  14. Lee Muller

    It is ridiculous to even discuss handing over more control of medicine to the federal government, when they have been unable to manage what they now control, like Medicare and Medicaid.

    Why the stated cost of this first phase of Obamacare cost 50% more than Medicare and Medicaid?

    Why can’t they reduce the cost, first, by 40% from its current level, to bring it in line with private insurance?

  15. Bart

    On the point of quacks being held responsible and fined to the hilt, you get no argument from me. However, even with partisanship accounted for, I have a problem believing Republicans are willing to reward BAD doctors or give them cover. If we have tort reform, then we will have some who slip through the cracks. That is inevitable and all contingencies cannot be planned for.

    As I said in my comments, bad doctors should be prohibited from practicing medicine in any state if their license is revoked in another one. This is a problem within the medical community. They will cover for one of their own. We have a couple of local doctors who I would refuse to let perform an autopsy on a dead rat. Yet, they get referrals from other doctors for employment exams and other minor medical procedures. I still have painful memories from having one of them do a minor procedure before I found out how bad he was.

    Until doctors police their own ranks, tort reform will have abusers just as it is in any other profession. When a bad doctor is brought before a doctor’s peer review board, they have one of their own in front of them. Review boards should have equal representation including insurance companies, private citizens, and hospital administrators at a minimum.

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