Thursday, February 18, 2010

USA Today on the Merced Economy

While at lunch, I saw a giant cover story in USA Today about Merced County's unemployment. The journalists at USA Today didn't even mention the drought, even though San Luis reservoir is in Merced County. I think that is an oversight. Of course, many other journalists from more prestigious outlets have come to the region and blamed unemployment on water without talking about foreclosures/housing, a much larger error.

It is interesting to see the contrast in the reporting. An excerpt from USA Today,
Today, the Merced metropolitan area (population 246,117) has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, 19.8%.
Merced also has one of the highest foreclosure rates. According to widely published statistics from First American CoreLogic, one in five homes in Merced County was 90 days delinquent in payments as of November 2009.
The impact on property values has been devastating. Home values have dropped 62% since 2006, city spokesman Mike Conway says.
Median home prices dropped from a peak of $337,300 in 2006 to $94,300 at the end of 2009, according to, which tracks real estate values.
Cities here in California's fruit and vegetable basket are always dependent on the vagaries of agriculture and see unemployment soar in winter when there's little work in the fields. In this recession, however, the impact has been compounded by the collapse of construction after a frenzied speculative bubble.
In 2005, the city issued 1,444 residential building permits, Conway notes. In 2009, the number was seven.

City of Merced went from 1,444 building permits to 7. Amazing. Curious, I looked up the same numbers for Los Banos and Mendota.

Los Banos 690 new home building permits in 2005, 11 in 2009.
Mendota 214 new building permits in 2005, 0 in 2009.


  1. > "Curious, I looked up the same numbers for Los Banos and Mendota."

    Where do you look?
    (and does it cost money to do so?)
    I didn't see this info online for Nevada County (Calif).

    (Is this a case where the Public=Online effort is needed?)

  2. Census Bureau posts building permit data for counties and places on the internet.