Posts Tagged ‘Census Bureau’

Loudoun is the Nation’s Wealthiest County

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Ten of the 15 richest counties in the United States are located in Washington, D.C.’s Virginia and Maryland suburbs. According to 2010 Census Bureau data, with three counties exceeding the $100,000 mark, life seems pretty good in these areas, even as the U.S. median household income declined 2.3 percent between 2009 to 2010.  Even so, the richest counties boast a median income that is about double the national average of $49,445.  Only one county west of the Mississippi River – Douglas County in Colorado – made the list.  The other counties are in the New York and New Jersey suburbs.

Loudoun County, VA, with a median household income of $119,540, takes first place. With a median household income that is $16,000 higher than second-place Fairfax County, VA, Loudoun has trounced the competition on its way to becoming the richest county in America.  Loudoun borders both West Virginia and Maryland and is the site of Washington Dulles International Airport.  The Appalachian Trail runs along its western border, and the area was principally agricultural until the airport was built in the 1960s.  The population has continued to increase since then, with the area nearly doubling between 2000 to 2010. The poverty level is just 3.2 percent.

As of the 2010 Census, Loudoun County is estimated to be home to 312,311 people, an 84 percent increase over the 2000 figure of 169,599.  That increase makes Loudoun the fourth fastest-growing county in the United States.  Loudoun County is home to world headquarters for several high tech companies, including Verizon Business, Telos Corporation, Orbital Sciences Corporation, and Paxfire.  Like Fairfax County’s Dulles Corridor, Loudoun has economically benefited from the existence of the airport, which is mostly located in the county.  Western Loudoun County retains a strong rural economy and the equine industry has an estimated revenues of $78 million.

Second place Fairfax County, VA, is one of the largest counties in terms of population (1,081,726 residents in 2010), but it is also notable for its high-priced real estate.  Fairfax is one of only two counties to break the half-million mark in home values, with the median value of $507,800 for an owner-occupied home.

In descending order, the next richest counties in the Washington, D.C., area are Howard County, MD, with $101,771; Arlington County, VA, with $94,986; Stafford County, VA, with $94,317; Prince William County, VA, with $92,655; Montgomery County, MD, with $89,155; Calvert County, MD, with $88,862; St. Mary’s County, MD, with $88,444; and Charles County, MD, with $87,007.

Eugene Lauer, Charles County’s Economic Development Director, said he is not surprised that southern Maryland counties made the list.  “I think it’s great.  A lot of people may not know this, but we have ranked fairly high for a number of years,” he said.  “We know we have an affluent, highly-educated, qualified workforce in Charles County, and we have excellent students who will be in the workforce of tomorrow,” according to Charles County Commissioner Candace Quinn Kelly.  Lauer said Charles County’s low unemployment rate also helps drive up its ranking.  “Our unemployment rate is 5.4 percent.  That’s fourth or fifth best in the state, better than Maryland as a whole, which is 6.7 percent, and the U.S., which is 8.5 percent,” he said.

Dean Frutiger of the Council for Community and Economic Research though has a serious caveat.  “To rank something based on simply income does not take into account real cost of living issues,” said Frutiger, who calculates the nationwide Cost of Living Index.  After you factor in the local costs for items like housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation – D.C. metro area incomes go down by about 43 percent.  According to Frutiger “That $119,000 a year median income in Loudoun County, reduced by the cost of living index, means you’re down to $83,000.”

Rising Gas Prices Send Americans to Mass Transit

Monday, March 19th, 2012

American public transportation ridership rose 2.3 percent last year as gas prices rose to their highest-ever annual average, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).  The 10.4 billion trips recorded last year was the highest since 2008, when gas prices hit more than $4 a gallon nationwide for seven weeks in the summer.

APTA said economic recovery, that sees more Americans commuting to and from work, added to ridership.  Approximately 60 percent of commutes are for work.  Greater use of smart-phone apps, which “demystify” schedules for riders, also boosted ridership, the APTA said.  Increases in public transportation were reported in communities of all sizes and among light rail, subway, commuter train and bus services, the APTA said.  The largest increase — 5.4 percent — occurred in rural communities with populations of less than 100,000, said Michael Melaniphy, APTA’s president and chief executive.

Spending on public transport totals in the region of $50 billion a year, Melaniphy said.  Funding for public transportation is split nearly 50/50 between federal dollars from the gas tax, money from state and local property and sales taxes, and ridership fees.

In Boston, where unemployment has fallen two percent since the beginning of 2010, ridership rose four percent last year to an average of 1.3 million passenger trips a day on weekdays, said Joe Pesaturo, of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Because of the recession, transit agencies were forced to operate more efficiently and better care for existing systems and equipment, said Robert Puentes, senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.  That has resulted in better service.

In terms of specific modes of transit, light rail (including streetcars and trolleys) led with a 4.9 percent increase.  This was followed by heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) at 3.3 percent; commuter rail at 2.5 percent; and large bus systems at 0.4 percent.

It’s ironic that these increases occurred despite the fact that transit agencies have had to increase fares and decrease service because of budget cuts, according to Melaniphy. “Can you imagine what ridership growth would have been like if they hadn’t had to do those fare increases and service cuts?”

Fewer Couples Are Going to the Chapel

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

The number of American couples marching down the aisle to get married is in decline, with just 51 percent of adults reporting that they are married, according to the Pew Research Center and the Census Bureau.

The Pew Center’s study determined that new marriages in the United States fell five percent between 2009 and 2010; the slow economy likely was a contributing factor.  Compare the current record low of 51 percent of married adults with the 72 percent who were in wedded unions in 1960, according to the Pew Center.  The median age at first marriage for brides stands at 26.5 and for grooms it is 28.7.  That is the oldest Americans have ever been when they first married.

Researchers noted the United States is not alone in seeing a significant decline in marriage rates; other advanced, post-industrial societies are seeing the same long-term declines.  The Pew Center said that it is “beyond the scope” of the group’s analysis to “explain why marriage has declined.”

Some respondents just don’t like the idea of marriage. Nearly 40 percent of respondents believe that marriage is becoming an archaic institution.  They also report that in 2010, approximately 61 percent of adults who have never been married would like to be one day.

“The most dramatic statistics to me are when you look at the share of younger adults who are married now compared with in the past,” report author D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer at Pew Research Center, said.  “That’s really been where you’ve seen the big decline.”  Pew researchers analyzed U.S. Census data from 1960 and data from the American Community Surveys from 2008 – 2010.

Flat wages are another factor. “The incentive to get married – because you could rely on a man whose real wages would continue to rise, who would get a pension at the end of it – has been undermined as well,” Cohn said.

According to Census Bureau statistics, 7.5 million couples lived together without being married in 2010, a 13 per cent increase when compared with the previous year.  The financial crisis has forced people to move in with partners.  Marriage rates are highest among college graduates (approximately two-thirds).  Less than half of high school graduates are married.

Not surprisingly, divorce is a factor impacting the ranks of the currently married, although it is unclear how important it has been.  Divorce rates rose in the 1960s and 1970s, but have leveled off in the past 20 years.  Approximately 72 percent of adults have been married at least once, down from 85 percent in 1960.

“If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years,” according to the Pew report.  “Other adult living arrangements-including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood-have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.”

“Well, it does not mean that marriage is dead,”  said Stephanie Coontz, a historian on family life at Evergreen State College in Washington state.  Many of those 20-somethings will sooner or later tie the knot.  “But what it does bring home to us is that we can no longer pretend that marriage is the central organizing principle of society. We have to take account of the many, many social networks and relationships that people cycle through, marriage being just one of them,” Coontz said.

“This marks a continuation of a long term trend,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center.  “If this trend continues, we are approaching a turning point where fewer than half of all adults in this country will be married.”

Generation Gap in Americans’ Net Worth

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Households headed by older adults have made impressive gains when compared with those headed by younger adults in their economic well-being over the past 25 years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. In 2009, households headed by adults aged 65 and older had 42 percent more net worth (assets minus debt) than households headed by their same-aged counterparts had in 1984.  During this same period, the wealth of households headed by younger adults declined.  In 2009, households headed by adults younger than 35 reported 68 percent less wealth than in 1984.

As a result of these trends, in 2009 the typical household headed by someone in the older age group had 47 times as much net wealth as the average household headed by someone younger – $170,494 versus $3,662 in 2010 dollars.  In 1984, this had been a less asymmetrical ten-to-one ratio.  This means that the oldest households in 1984 had median net wealth $108,936 higher than that of the youngest households.  By 2009, the disparity had grown to $166,832.

Writing for CNN Money, Annalyn Censky notes that “So why the growing chasm?  Housing trends have played a major role, the Pew Center said.  While rising home equity helped drive wealth gains for the older generation over a long timeframe, the younger generation has had less time to ride out the housing market’s volatility — especially its most recent boom and bust.  Meanwhile, the younger generation is also taking longer to enter the labor force and get married.  And surging college costs are also leaving them burdened by more student loans than prior generations.”

According to the Pew report, “Most of today’s older homeowners got into the housing market long ago, at ‘pre-bubble’ prices.  Along with everyone else, they’ve been hurt by the housing market collapse of recent years, but over the long haul, most have seen their home equities rise.  For young adults who are in the beginning stages of wealth accumulation, there has been no such luck, at least so far.”

The impact of the Great Recession on individual wealth was taken into account by the Pew Researchers. We don’t know what the future will bring, but things are happening much more slowly for this generation,” said Paul Taylor, director of Pew Social & Demographic Trends and co-author of the analysis.  “If this pattern continues, and this difficult start plays out and slows this generation down, then you start to call into question the basic tenets of the American dream, which is that every generation does better than the one before.”

While the recession hurt people of all ages, the older group was much better sheltered, and saw its median net worth drop just six percent between 2005 and 2009.  Generally speaking, it has increased 42 percent since 1984 when the Census Bureau first began measuring wealth according to age.  The median net worth for the younger-age households fell 55 percent since the recession and 68 percent when compared with 25 years ago.

Net worth consists of the home’s value, possessions and savings, minus debt such as mortgages, college loans and credit-card debt.  Fully 37 percent of younger households reported that they have a net worth of zero or less, nearly double the amount reported in 1984.  That percentage remained at approximately eight percent for households headed by a person 65 or older.  “It makes us wonder whether the extraordinary amount of resources we spend on retirees and their healthcare should be at least partially reallocated to those who are hurting worse than them,” according to Harry Holzer, a labor economist and public policy professor at Georgetown University.

The news isn’t all bad for young people.  For example, they may have more student debt.  That’s good news because it means that more of them are going to college, a choice that will show returns in the long-run, according to the study.  Education is essential  to making money in today’s economy, said Steven Klineberg, a professor of sociology at Rice University.  Unlike in the past, the availability of blue-collar jobs and unions that could boost a worker into the middle class no longer exist.  “The ability to keep learning is a critical requirement,” Klineberg said.

Recent College Grads Can Expect Starting Salaries 10 Percent Below 2000 Levels

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Recent college graduates can expect to earn 10 percent less than they did as long ago as 2000.  In fact, one of the longest-lasting legacies of the great recession may be its negative impact on the lifetime careers of young graduates.  The current high unemployment rate will leave many of them a step behind throughout their careers.  A study conducted by Yale School of Management economist Lisa Kahn determined that workers who graduated from college during the recession of the early 1980s were still in worse shape financially than workers who graduated in better times after approximately 2006.  When young college graduates do get a job, it frequently won’t pay well.  According to Census Bureau statistics, the median annual earnings of a worker 25 to 34 years old with a bachelor’s degree was $40,875 last year, a significant decline from the $45,200 reported in 2000, adjusting for inflation.

Despite the dismal salary news, there is good news in that fact that hiring for 2011 graduates is up 10 percent when compared with last year.  Meanwhile, unemployment rates among those with a degree is less than half the national average.  It’s those with just a high school education whose unemployment rates are above the national average.

The typical wage for recent college graduates has fallen by nearly $1 per hour over the last 10 years, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).  Despite the lack of growth in entry-level wages, a college degree remains a worthy investment.  According to the EPI’s Heidi Shierholz, “After gains in the 1980s and particularly in the 1990s, hourly wages for young college-educated men in 2000 were $22.75, but that dropped by almost a full dollar to $21.77 by 2010.  For young college-educated women, hourly wages fell from $19.38 to $18.43 over the same period.  Now, with unemployment expected to remain above 8 percent well into 2014, it will likely be many years before young college graduates — or any workers — see substantial wage growth.”

There is some upbeat news for the class of 2011. Students who will graduated this year received job offers with starting salaries averaging $50,034 annually, a 3.5 percent increase over last year, according to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).  Employers said they plan to increase hiring of college graduates by 13.5 percent compared with 2010.  Business majors were the best positioned, with the average starting salary rising nearly two percent to $48,089.  Accounting majors received salary offers of $49,022, up 2.2 percent, while finance majors were offered an average of $50,535, an increase of 1.9 percent.  Starting salaries for business administration/management graduates fell slightly to $44,171, down 2.3 percent.  Engineering graduates — typically one of the highest-paying fields — didn’t see a big change, with the average starting salary down 0.3 percent but still impressive at $59,435.

Certain engineering majors saw noteworthy increases, with electrical engineering majors receiving an average salary offer of $61,690 — up 4.4 percent over 2010.  Mechanical engineering salaries rose 3.8 percent to $60,598, although it didn’t pay as well to graduate with a degree in civil engineering, with starting salaries in that field slipping 7.1 percent to $48,885.  While the association’s survey didn’t break out starting salaries for individual liberal arts majors, offers were up an impressive 9.5 percent to $35,633.  That compares to a steep decline of 11 percent last year.

The financial crisis is forcing Americans to re-think what they want out of a college education. “Students and families are becoming more savvy consumers about how they get their degrees, where they go to school and how they pay for it.  I think that is long overdue,” said Edie Irons, the Institute for College Access and Success’s communications director.  “It used to be that a college degree seemed like a ticket to ride, but there are no guarantees anymore that once you get that degree, you’re going to get a great job and do really well financially.  There’s been research that has shown students graduating in a recession earn lower incomes throughout their lifetimes than those graduating in a boom,” Irons said.  “It is a real concern, and we think graduates need good information about how to manage their debt.”

According to Brandon Lagana, director of admissions at Northern Illinois University, students are being more fluid in their approach to college.  Some chose a more affordable university, others start at a two-year institution then finish at a four-year school, and some wait a few years before starting any schooling.  “We’re certainly seeing students using more options to a degree than they ever did before,” he said.

Read my recent Huffington Post article about college education and debt here.

High Gas Prices Sending Americans to Their Computers to Shop

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Online shopping grew at its fastest pace in nearly four years in April as soaring fuel prices sent Americans to their computers instead of the malls to shop on the internet instead, according to MasterCard Advisors.  Consumers spent $13.8 billion online in April, a 19.2 per cent increase over the same month of 2010, according to the SpendingPulse survey, which is based on spending using MasterCard credit cards and estimates of other forms of payment.  Mike Berry, MasterCard Advisors’ director of industry research, said “We’ve started to see demand distortion, with people pumping fewer gallons and driving less.”  Amazon.com reported sales had increased as much as 45 percent, while eBay reported a 10 percent rise.

In general, April sales trends are mixed, with some sectors showing continued year-over-year growth.  Others are flat or even negative, according to the report, which tracks sales across all payment methods.  A late Easter, which shifted some sales from March into April, may skew interpretations, although data suggests that high gasoline prices are impacting consumer behavior.  April marked the sixth straight month of double-digit growth in online shopping, according to Berry.  Online shopping has risen from 0.6 percent of all retail spending at the end of 1999 to 4.3 percent in the 4th quarter of last year, according to Census Bureau statistics.

We can expect consumers to make fewer shopping trips,  especially on weekends, and this may contribute to an ever stronger growth for e-commerce,” says Michael McNamara, vice president, research and analysis for SpendingPulse.  Several retail sectors saw online sale increases during April.  For example, online shoe sales rose 20 percent compared with 2010.  Women’s clothing rose by 15 percent, the second consecutive month to record that large an increase.  By comparison, clothing sales in actual stores rose 10.4 percent.  Consumer electronics purchased online grew 9.1 percent, for the eighth consecutive month of growth.  Electronics and appliance sales, including brick and mortar purchases, declined 1.8 percent in April.

Referring to continually rising gas prices, McNamara said,  “Our experience over the past several years suggests that this can have a variety of repercussions for retail.  First, we can expect consumers to make fewer shopping trips, especially on weekends, and this may contribute to an ever stronger growth for e-commerce.  Fewer miles driven also reduces demand for auto parts and services.  Finally, casual dining restaurants can be negatively impacted.”

Surprisingly demand also hasn’t yet been hurt by the sharp rise in gasoline prices brought on by the uprisings across the Middle East, according to Berry.  Still, he warns the trend bears watching as he expects that spending levels are only just starting to see the impact of soaring gas prices.  “We haven’t reached that point yet, but it is something to keep an eye on,” he said.

Gridlocked Chicago: There’s Some Disagreement

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Gridlocked Chicago:  There’s Some DisagreementChicago is # 1!  Unfortunately, this is not good news because the Windy City has been ranked by one study as having the worst traffic congestion in the nation.   The news was one finding of the Urban Mobility Report (UMR),  conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, the United States’ largest university-affiliated transportation research agency.  Earlier TTI studies had ranked Chicago in second or third place.  Washington, D.C., and its suburbs currently occupy second place.

The study of 2009 driving conditions found that Chicago’s roadways have increasing gridlock, at virtually any hour of the day.  In addition to the normal time it takes to get from Point A to Point B by car, commuters in metropolitan Chicago and northwest Indiana spent 70 extra hours behind the wheel in 2009, according to the study.  Chicago’s earlier record was 64 hours of extra driving reported in 2008; 55 hours in 1999; and 18 hours in 1982.  The national average of time wasted stuck in traffic was a more manageable 34 hours.  The fact that Chicago is a nationwide shipping hub and has some of the nation’s heaviest truck traffic – plus two of the top bottleneck areas – also impacts congestion.  Additionally, Illinois has approximately 10.4 million registered vehicles, and a population of around 12.9 million, according to 2009 Census Bureau statistics

“In terms of the delay for each auto commuter, Chicago now tips the scales at No. 1, where in the last report, Los Angeles was locked in that spot,” said David Schrank, one of the report’s authors.  The average cost to each commuter is $1,738.  Nationally, traffic congestion cost $115 billion in 2009; additionally, consumers drove 4.8 billion additional hours and had to purchase an extra 3.9 billion gallons of gas.

Alter NOW finds that the report has its detractors:  Smart Growth America takes issue with some of the UMR’s findings.  “It assumes, for example, that everyone should be able to speed as rapidly down the highway during rush hour as they could in the middle of the night.  American taxpayers will never stand for being asked to turn over their wallets and their neighborhoods in order to build that kind of highway capacity“.

A June 30, 2010 study by IBM actually disputes the rankings, placing Los Angeles, New York and Houston as the U.S. cities with the worst traffic.  Topping the international list of cities notorious for congestion are Beijing, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Moscow and New Delhi.  Chicago doesn’t appear on IBM’s 20-city list.

Another mid-year 2010 study by Seattle-based INRIX, places Chicago in third place nationally.  “Between 5 and 6 p.m. Thursday is now the most-congested travel hour of the week in the Chicago area,” according to the INRIX National Traffic Scorecard.  “Last year, it was the 5-6 p.m. hour on Fridays.  The reason for the change?  It could be that more people are working part-time or ‘flex-time’, and Friday is a frequent day for flex-timers to take off or work from home,” said Chicago traffic expert Joe Schwieterman of DePaul University.  “Chicago doesn’t have a long-term plan to do much about congestion, we’re adding some lanes to the Tri-State, some work on I-80, but there’s not the construction in the works to relieve some of the worst bottlenecks“.

Baby Boom Has Gone Bust

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Illinois' birth rate is at its lowest level since the Great Depression.One unexpected side effect of economic hard times is a sharp decline in birth rates.  In Illinois, for example, the birth rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1933 – and that was during the darkest days of the Great Depression.  “Many couples are strained and don’t want to take on additional responsibilities,” said Dr. Kishore Lakhani, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist.  Dr. Vijay Arekapudi, chairwoman of the OB/GYN department at the Division Street campus of Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center is in agreement, noting that “Especially for people who are working, if they already have a child, they are deciding to continue taking birth control.”

At present, Illinois’ birth rate is approximately 13.3 for every 1,000 people.  That is a significant reduction from the high of 17.1 per 1,000 residents in 1990, according to Census Bureau statistics.  By contrast, the 1933 rate was 13.9.  According to the Illinois Department of Public Health and the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 171,200 babies were born in Illinois in the year ending last November.  Births are down five percent from 180,503 births in 2007, before the recession began, according to Census Bureau statistics.

“It’s not just the recession; it’s the way the recession is intersecting with these other trends” that has slashed the birth rate, said Arden Handler, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.  Illinois is not the only state impacted by falling birth rates, according to the Pew Research Center.  The nonpartisan organization studied data from 25 states (Illinois was not one of them) and found that birth rates started shrinking in 2008 after reaching their highest level in 20 years.  Gretchen Livingston, a Pew Center senior researcher, summed up the trend as “When things are tough economically, fertility goes down.

New Economic Reality Impacts Everyday Life

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

The long recession has dramatically impacted the lives of all Americans, according to demographic data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.  Commutes are lengthier; people are not moving; immigration is down; and couples are delaying marriage.  The annual American Community Survey report, based on information gleaned from three million households, highlights how deeply the recession impacted all Americans.car_pool_only_lane

The number of people who drive solo to work fell last year to 75.5 percent, the lowest in a decade.  Yet, the average commute time rose to 25.5 minutes, as people left home earlier in the morning to pick up car-pooling co-workers.  Mobility is at a 60-year low, which will impact congressional district reapportionment based on 2010 census data.  The number of foreign-born individuals living in the United States fell to less than 38 million, after reaching an all-time high in 2007.

Of Americans over the age of 15, 31.2 percent reported that they had never been married, the highest percentage in a decade.  According to the survey, the number of unmarried Americans started climbing when the housing market downturn started in 2006.  Sociologists believe that young people are taking more time to achieve economic independence because they are having trouble landing well-paying jobs or are studying for advanced degrees.

“The recession has affected everybody in one way or another as families use lots of different strategies to cope with a new economic reality,” according to Mark Mather, associate vice president of the not-for-profit Population Reference Bureau.  “Job loss – or the potential for job loss – also leads to feelings of economic insecurity and can create social tension.”  With unemployment still rising, Mather notes that “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

“Home Sweet Home” Is Back in Style

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Despite positive news about rising home sales, the number of Americans with under water mortgages might be as worrying as anything else happening in the economy. When people owe more on their mortgages than their home is worth, it limits their ability to pursue new opportunities because they cannot afford to sell.  In Chicago, First American CoreLogic reports that more than 550,000 homes were under water at the end of June.  That translates to $134 billion in negative equity.

54755_1215745994960_bStatistics from the United States Census Bureau indicate that household mobility is at a 20-year low.  According to Sam Khater, a senior economist with the consulting firm of American CoreLogic, under water mortgages are the primary reason why people are less mobile.

Lenders are wary about extending credit in housing markets where values are sinking, which feeds the negative cycle of inactivity in the housing market and pushes prices down even more.  This damages the economy because under water homeowners have a tendency to accept the inevitability of foreclosure.  Homeowners with negative equity are seven times more liable to go into foreclosure than people whose mortgage and home equity loans total between 95 and 100 percent of their home’s value.

Homes are no longer considered to be sources of future wealth.  Consumers aren’t spending because they can’t rely on getting a low-interest home equity loan to buy their way out of a personal credit crunch.  Khater notes that “Borrowers are beginning to treat a home more like a home and less like a financing vehicle.”

Economic growth is further impacted because these same homeowners (who, in most cases, have stayed current on their mortgage obligations) are delaying or eliminating home improvements due to fears that any additional investment in the home will not be economically realized in value or returned in the event of a sale.  This inactivity is being felt by many home remodeling contractors, as well as retailers.