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California 2015: A New Year’s Surprise

February 17, 2015

A lot of folks around the country laugh at California because of its virulent anti-business attitude, environmental insanity and its state slogan, “land of the fruits and nuts.” Yet, they fail to see that California is a most incredible economic machine and a demographic powerhouse.

In the past four years, California has gained almost as many people as live in the City of San Diego. Between 2010 and 2014, the state added more than 1.2 million persons. Some 75% of the population gain was the result of births over deaths, but 25% was the result of immigration: 151,000 persons moved to California.

People move here because we have jobs. Since 2010, the state has created more than 1.4 million jobs – meaning job growth exceeded population growth by 200,000.

Since 2010 (the pit of the recession), the state has gained jobs in virtually every category. Even retailing (which was supposed to disappear due to online shopping) added almost 200,000 jobs.

Construction has also gained 138,000 jobs since 2010. Of course, the industry is not quite its former self. (There were 917,000 jobs in 2007 vs. 700,000 today). But it is certainly more encouraging than the 500,000 jobs in the industry in 2010. Additionally, the unemployment rate has plummeted from 12.4% in 2007 down to 7.1% today.

Another indicator of economic health is the spirited bidding for sale housing. In 2007, the median resale home price in California peaked at $591,000, only to sag to $245,000 in 2009 (a 58.5% decline). Now, prices are coming back and in 2014 reached a post-recession high of $445,280. Not quite back to the good old days, but getting there.

The only flaw in the California economy is construction, both residential and commercial. On the residential side, we cascaded from 203,000 to 35,069 units in 2009. Gradually, the industry is clawing its way back, but mostly due to the construction of apartments.

New home production in 2014 was about 38,000 units, compared to 153,000 in 2005. In the past four years, new single-family home production has edged upward from 25,000 in 2010, but certainly cannot be considered a healed industry.

With virtually no condominium construction in the state, multi-family permits are almost all apartments. The greatest percentage of those are urban, with an unusually high percentage of them in Type 3 (wood frame over podium) or high-rise construction.

Commercial construction remains weak, but with the increase in residential construction, there will be a need for more retail centers, healthcare facilities, and office and industrial space. The return to health in the commercial sector will be slow, but sure.

As I look at 2015, I am convinced that it will be another quite good year for California, very much mirroring the experience of 2014, but with a stronger residential construction market because of recent efforts to create shovel-ready lots and land. I am quite certain interest rates and gas rates will remain low, and those two factors will allow more Californians to acquire new and resale housing in 2015.

Live well, my friends, in yet another glorious year in the Golden State.

This article was originally published by Xpera Group which is now part of The Vertex Companies, LLC.

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