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Not exactly mirroring USA economy
Manteca shows bright spots in jobs, housing
home
Manteca builders started 61 new homes in August to buck a national trend. - photo by HIME ROMERO

New home starts dropped in August across the country.

Not in Manteca. They more than doubled over the previous month.

Unemployment was unchanged nationally in August.

Not in Manteca. Nine hundred people found work for the biggest drop in the jobless rate in three years.

At the same time Manteca for the fourth consecutive year could end up building more new housing units than all other jurisdiction in San Joaquin County combined. Toss in the fact the sales pace of existing homes - primarily foreclosures - still is steady as it is in much of the rest of the county and Manteca appears to be bucking a few negative national trends. Yes, sale prices of existing homes aren’t increasing and the new home building pace is about 40 percent of what many Manteca’s came to expect as normal.

And the somewhat of a disconnect with national economic trends isn’t all positive.

Despite a 1.2 percent improvement in August employment, Manteca’s 14.1 jobless rate is significantly higher than the national 9.1 percent rate and above California’s 12.1 percent rate. It is, though, below the 16.1 percent unemployment rate for San Joaquin County as a whole. That higher number is driven by the fact Stockton has close to one out of every five employable adult looking for work.

“There is big disconnect between Washington and much of the country,” Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford said. “We’d be thrilled in San Joaquin County to have an unemployment rate of 9 percent.”

Even in good times, the county’s jobless rate never dropped far below 9 percent.

Weatherford believes some “micro” economic decisions made by the city over the past few years has put Manteca in a somewhat better position than neighboring jurisdictions.

The other big factor that Weatherford attributes to Manteca faring somewhat better in some types of economic development than its neighbors is location.

“It’s just like in baseball, location is important where you hit the ball,” Weatherford said.

Manteca in August issued 61 permits for new single family homes including three custom homes. That represents the biggest month in at least four years. Through the end of August, 206 new single family homes have been started along with the 152-unit apartment complex on Atherton Drive in South Manteca. Manteca already is enjoying its biggest year for overall new housing starts in four years.

New home sales are still being driven by Del Webb at Woodbridge that accounts for roughly 30 percent of all transactions.

The city has been averaging 300 new homes for the past three years. That has added roughly 1,000 new consumers a year. It is a critical infusion given retail and services are struggling as many existing residents reduce consumer spending. In essence, economists contend growth in such cases actually keeps local economies from being worse off than they already are.

The City Council helped spur new home construction by opting to collect almost all growth-related fees right before a home is actually funded or sold instead of upfront when the home permits are issued. It hasn’t impacted the city’s bottom line but it has allowed builders to create more liquidity which is critical when construction can take as long as six months.

Existing home sales are expected to reach 1,100 closed deals by year’s end for the third straight year. At the same time, several banks have restarted their foreclosure process after getting paperwork in order. Bank of America alone is reported to have increased its foreclosures in Manteca and elsewhere in the Northern San Joaquin Valley by almost 80 percent in August compared to July.