NAHB recently unveiled an index that tracks housing markets on the mend: the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI). The IMI is intended to draw attention to the fact that housing markets are local and that there are metropolitan areas where economic recovery is underway. The index measures three readily available monthly data series that are independently collected and are indicative of improving economic health. The three indicators are employment, house price and single family housing permit growth.
For the second release 23 markets are currently classified as improving under a conservative examination of local economic and housing market conditions. Among these areas is the Casper, WY micropolitan statistical area (MSA).
The improving housing market in Casper is the result of a well diversified economy that is not overly dependent on any one occupation or industry but that has benefited from the recent boom in energy and agriculture. According to Donald York, the Executive officer of the Converse County Chapter of the National Association of Home Builders “despite the fact that there is no mining or prospecting or big farms in Casper, these industries all depend on Casper for services. As a result, there have been noticeable increases in oil field service jobs and manufacturing jobs to cater to the energy industry, as well as increased employment in agriculture due to the increased profitability of farming throughout the region.”
Comparing occupational data from the 2000 Census to the 2009 American Community Survey confirms this. Today there are 2,545 (or 27%) more management jobs than in 2000, 622 (or 12%) more service jobs, 497 (or 12%) more production jobs, and 1,046 (or 23%) more construction jobs. Moreover, except for a small decline in the number of workers in retail trade there have been increases in every industry paced by 1,008 (or 45%) more jobs in agriculture and mining, 666 (or 47%) more jobs in transportation, 471 (or 23%) more jobs in manufacturing, and 347 (or 13%) more jobs in construction.
According to Bill Russell a builder member of the Converse County Chapter another factor contributing to the success of the local housing market includes “a strong desire to live in Casper that has resulted in house prices that have held their own.” He went on to add that “with the strong economy (unemployment is just 5%) jobs are not that hard to find and households feel secure enough to buy houses which has helped the local market. Also, American Tire’s construction of a new (80,000 square foot) distribution center and the added jobs that come with it along with an influx of some well paid energy services professionals has also made a difference.” As a result of all these trends home prices have remained stable during the downturn. House prices have moved up 2.3% since the trough in January 2010 and are just 8.6% off their all–time high set in August 2007.
Improving economic conditions have resulted in payroll employment being just 3% down from its peak in December 2008, and up by 2,700 since the trough in December 2009. Single family permitting activity is up 5.1% on a seasonally adjusted monthly average basis from the trough set in November 2010. While new homes are being built across all of the Casper, WY MSA, activity has been most pronounced in the Towns of Bar Nunn and Evansville.