Some positive signs about the local economy

FRESNO, California

  • Gasoline sales are up nearly 21%.
  • Auto sales are up more than 16%.
  • Restaurants have seen a nearly 7%.
  • Retail stores reported a more than 4% increase.

Lee Ann Eager said, "People are starting to feel like the economy is getting better."

Eager, President of the Economic Development Corporation says there has been a surge of interest and business activity.

"We have found in the last six months there has been quite a turnaround," Eager said. "Lately we've had a lot of interest in businesses expanding and looking at adding a Central Valley office and looking at Fresno as one of those so we are excited about what's coming."

Local Real Estate agents are feeling better. At the annual Fresno Association of Realtors meeting President Dan Hawkins told us there are both positive signs, and roadblocks. "You know the market is really kind of changing right now, interest rates at all-time low, and inventory is really low."

With less than a thousand houses on the local market demand is rising, often with multiple bids, but prices are being restrained because of the foreclosures on the market. Hawkins says sales are being held up because many homes aren't appraising for their true value.

Hawkins said, "It's changing so fast the values and the appraisers aren't able to catch up with that value because the distressed sales are used as comparable sales."

He's expecting things to get sorted out, and notes federal legislation to keep foreclosures from being used in assessing values is pending.

The shortage of existing homes available for sale has given new home builders a boost. While sales are down over last year, orders for new home have taken a jump.

Mike Prandini of the Building Industry Association says more building permits are being generated, "So the expectation is the builders are seeing more activity in their sales offices and anticipate more sales through the summer."

Overall, the figures show economic activity in Fresno, based on sales tax figures has been rising since the low point in 2009.

Fresno County's 16% unemployment rate hasn't declined over the past year, but it hasn't gone up. That could be seen as a positive indicator.

The county's biggest business, agriculture is expected to report a record year. Gross earnings are expected to exceed$6 billion for 2011, up from just under $6 billion in 2010.

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