Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Economic Update: Wichita and the World

1) The world economy is eighteen months into an economic recovery. The U.S. economy lagged six months behind. Employment lagged another six months behind that and Wichita lagged yet further behind.  The most recent news is mixed.  the Commerce Department reported Housing starts were up.  Alan Rappeport writes in the Financial Times that "That was stronger than economists expected and marked the third month running that starts increased."  The Fed reported that September industrial production was down.  Rapeport tells us that "US industrial production fell for the first time in more than a year last month."

2) The U.S. unemployment rate is still at 9.5% reflecting the enormous dislocations caused during the bubble years of 2004-7. The administration's two top economists Larry Summers have retreated to academia.  CNN interviewed Peter Diamond the new Nobel Laureate who seems to see it differently.  He told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS: "The central focus of the problems in the economy right now is not that the labor market is working badly but the demand for labor is way down. ... I view the US economy as extraordinarily adaptive . . . I expect the economy to adapt this time as well."

3) Wichita and Kansas are seeing signs of recovery. Wichita's August unemployment rate at 8.2% is down a percentage point from a year ago. (August is the worst month each year.) For four straight months we have seen an improvement over the year before. A new state study shows job openings up and up relative to the number out of work. The Kansas Department of Labor reported, "There are more job vacancies in Kansas this year than last year, according to the 2010 Job Vacancy Survey. The survey, completed by employers during the second quarter of 2010, found there were an estimated 32,091 job vacancies statewide. This represents a 24.5 percent increase in vacancies from 2009." World trade is vital for Kansas and the world economy is pulling up the Kansas economy.

4) As for the aviation industry, it is a three legged stool: commercial, military, and general aviation. Commercial aviation is reviving. The lessors are back. The other two legs are weak.  Most countries are cutting military spending around the world. General aviation (business jets and private planes) is still in a big slump.

5) The business aviation industry has its big show in Atlanta while we speak. In connection with that, Honeywell's new forecast shows a 10% increase over the next decade, but tough slogging over the next two years. For 2010, Honeywell Aerospace estimates deliveries of 675-700 new business jets, down 16-17 percent from 849 in 2009 mainly due to continued global economic weakness as well as overarching concerns about government debt, austerity programs, export growth, financing costs, and general availability. Rob Wilson, President, Business and General Aviation, Honeywell Aerospace said "The industry should begin another period of expansion by 2012"  Molly Mullins reports on Hawker's new business jet, the 200 and on Cessna's new version of the Citation, the Citation X.

6) Hawker-Beechcraft's two lines of business are military and business jets: not a pretty picture. Kansas has put together a package to keep it from moving to Louisiana, but the union has now rejected the firm's proposed labor contract. This cloud remains over our economic horizon.

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