Economic Indicators: 8.4% Home Sales Drop Biggest in 17 Years; Online Job Ads Up 17%

Total existing-home sales declined 0.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 6.22 million units in December from 6.27 million in November, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales were down 7.9% in last year from 6.75 million-unit pace in December 2005.

There were 6,480,000 existing-home sales in all of 2006, down 8.4% from a record 7,075,000 in 2005. This is the biggest annual drop since 14.8% decline in 1989, before the 1990-91 recession.

Total housing inventory levels fell 7.9% at the end of December to 3.51 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.8-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 7.3-month supply in November. 

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $222,000 in December, unchanged from December 2005.  

Help-Wanted Advertising Index

The Conference Board Help-Wanted Advertising Index, a key measure of job offerings in major newspapers across America, rose 4 points to 33 in December, compared to 38 a year ago, according to The Conference Board. 

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising rose in seven of the nine U.S. regions. Largest increases occurred in the East North Central (35.9%), West South Central (23.0%), New England (16.1%) and Middle Atlantic (10.5%) regions.

Online advertised job vacancies rose 17% YoY to 3.344.600 in December, according to The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine Data Series.

Initial Jobless Claims:

Initial jobless claims jumped 36,000 to 325,000 in the week ending Jan. 20, according to the Labor Department. The 4-week moving average was 309,250, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average of 307,750. 

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