MarksJarvis: Jobs, housing coming back, but slowly

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Meanwhile, despite the surge in job growth in February's unemployment report, "the average unemployed individual is out of work for 36.9 weeks, showing considerable long-term unemployment," said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Michelle Meyer. And only 63.5 percent of the potential labor force is in a job, the lowest level since 2007.

The positive piece of the jobs picture involves layoffs.

The number reported in January was the lowest since 2000, Silver said.

Economists are predicting that as the housing market improves, the job market will too.

About 2 million jobs were lost in construction as homes plunged about 30 percent in price during the housing bust.

Now, Meyers says, the belief that homes are climbing in value will inspire more people to buy homes.

The housing market is showing "signs of sustainable recovery," Meyer said. But it's "still far from normal."

"The key component of a normal housing recovery is access to credit," she said. "There are signs of improvement, but it has been slow thus far."

She estimates home prices will increase 8 percent this year, after gaining 7.3 percent in 2012.

That should help with the wealth effect too. Middle-income people have most of their wealth in their homes rather than the stock market. And if homes start rising in value along with jobs, that could give the economy the pickup it needs.

gmarksjarvis@tribune.com

Twitter @gailmarksjarvis

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