Tony Dobrowolski: Stats often tell a story
We receive a lot of statistics here at The Eagle's business desk.
Here are a few that recently caught my attention.
According to The Eagle's voluminous files, five of what are believed to be the 10 largest residential real estate deals in Berkshire County have taken place over the last two years.
Four of those transactions have occurred since last September, and two have actually taken place already this year.
While the market for Berkshire luxury homes may be booming, it's actually gone down in some adjacent areas. The market for Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales of luxury homes in the Hudson Valley, which includes Dutchess, Columbia and Ulster counties in nearby New York state, was down by as much as a third during the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same time period last year.
There were no sales at the top of the market, homes in the $2 million plus range, compared to two here in the Berkshires. The lousy weather we had at the beginning of the year is considered to be the main culprit in the Hudson Valley market.
Overall sales in the Berkshire housing market are up six percent from last year, which appears to be a good sign.
But there is a flip side. The number of foreclosure petitions filed in the Berkshires soared from three in March 2013 to 14 this March, an increase of over 350 percent, according to the Warren Group of Boston, which tracks state real estate transactions. Year-to-date, the same amount of foreclosure petitions (23) have been filed in the Berkshires as last year, but the number of foreclosure deeds has gone from 29 to 40, a 38 percent hike.
Here are some interesting employment figures.
In 2013, only one in four Massachusetts teenagers was expected to find summer employment. We're still working on getting this year's projections, but have recently learned that the national jobless rate for 18-29 year olds, adjusted for labor force participation by including those who have given up looking for work, is 15.5 percent, according to Generation Opportunity, a national, non-partisan youth organization. The rate is even higher in that age group for African-Americans (23.3 percent) and Hispanics (16.6 percent) while slightly lower for women (13.1 percent).
Those who are working apparently aren't enjoying their jobs. According to a new report by the Gallup organization that tracks data from 2010 through 2012, only 30 percent of American workers in all age groups are actively engaged in their work, which means 70 percent are not. That means seven in 10 American workers are more likely to be less productive.
This situation doesn't bode well for American companies. Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. between $450 and $500 billion per year.
Speaking of jobs, we often hear in the Berkshires that our local workforce doesn't have the skills needed to fulfill the job requirements in today's economy. In case you're wondering, that's not just a local problem. Despite high unemployment, 600,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs are currently vacant because employers can't find people with the right job skills to fill them, according to Forbes Magazine.
On a lighter note, we recently discovered that the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins have met 29 times in the National Hockey League playoffs since 1946. The Habs won 18 straight series from the Bruins between 1946 and 1987; the B's have taken seven of the 11 series since then.
We believe that Montreal's P.K. Subban may be one of the NHL's most exciting players, but after Thursday night's game Boston's Matt Fraser is the better story.
We may love statistics, but we're not going to predict the winner of this year's Canadiens-Bruins series. We will, however, tone down our stats mania somewhat if the Bruins manage to win.
Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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