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June 21, 2021

More signs of improvement coincided with the general reopening of the California economy last week. The state enjoyed encouraging reports on jobs, unemployment, and new UI claims. California’s housing market set new records across almost every measure in May—especially in prices and competition. In addition, new permit data shows that an uptick in new construction may finally materialize this year. Balanced against this, however, were ongoing signs of buyer fatigue, rates that continue to rise (though this hasn’t shown up in the Freddie Mac data yet), and forward-looking sales indices that suggest a slower pace of transactions in the coming months. 

California Unemployment Falling for Right Reasons: The unemployment rate dipped below 8% for the first time since the crisis began last year. Importantly, it went down even though more previously discouraged workers re-entered the labor force. In total, the number of employed workers went up by 39,400 as the unemployment roll shrank by 27,100 and 12,400 workers began looking for work again. California also added 104,500 jobs to its nonfarm payrolls last month—primarily in tourism and restaurants, but also in high-wage sectors like Information.

The Indicator that Matters Most Finally Improves: The number of new residential building permits is actually showing some signs of life in California this year. Through April 2021, California had permitted almost 40,000 new housing units—a 29% increase from the same point last year. Single-family units were up by 34% from 2020 levels while multi-family units rose 23%. However, it is important to point out that even if that pace of growth persists for the entire year, California will only permit roughly 130,000 housing units in 2021, which is still roughly 50,000 units short of the Housing and Community Development Departments estimated need of at least 180,000 units per year.

Freddie Mac Lagging Behind Market: The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) dipped slightly to 2.93% last week – remaining below the critical 3% threshold. However, daily tracking on the Mortgage Daily News website shows rates continuing to rise reaching 3.26% at the time of this writing. Overall, 10-year Treasuries are hovering in the 1.5% range, but remain down from more than 1.6% in May. Still, spreads remain low so we should expect rates to remain firm over the short run.

7-Day COVID Numbers Edge Up: The 7-day trailing average that the state uses as its key metric in tracking the pandemic has risen in 3 of the past 4 days as raw case volumes remain stubbornly high. So far, nearly 40 million doses of vaccine have been distributed and California just completed its first week of reopening, which is contributing to a solid economic bounce. However, the state is likely to continue to experience sickness and deaths related to coronavirus even as things start to look more like normal.  

Mortgage Applications Post Another Double Digit Decline: The number of new mortgage purchase applications fell 17% last week –the second consecutive double-digit decline on a year-to-year basis. There were more new purchase applications last week compared with the week before, but the pace of demand has not fallen short of 2020 levels for the past 4 weeks in a row. Although households were feeling better about the broader economy last week, several measures (including C.A.R.’s Housing Sentiment Index) showed attitudes towards buying a home are suffering from extraordinary levels of competition over exceptionally constrained inventory.

More Sellers Leaving California: In C.A.R.’s latest weekly survey of REALTORS®, the percentage of agents with a seller that left California rose to its third highest level since we began asking members last fall. More than 37% of respondents said that the seller in their last transaction left California, which has been trending up generally since we began surveying on this topic. However, it is also important to note that the percentage with a seller who relocated within the same city or in a different part of California appear to have stabilized since last year.


eekly Survey Data for WE 2021-06-19


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