TOPICS > Economy

Home Foreclosures, New Jobless Claims Decline

BY Carolyn O'Hara  November 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT

foreclosure sign; file photo

Although the number of homeowners in foreclosure dipped last month, according to RealtyTrac, a real estate data firm, filings are still up 19 percent over the same time last year. Some 332,000 households — or one in every 385 homes — received a foreclosure notice in October.

“Three consecutive monthly declines is unprecedented for our report, and on first blush an indication that the foreclosure tide may be turning,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, in a statement. “However, the fundamental forces driving foreclosure activity in this housing downturn — high-risk mortgages, negative equity, and unemployment –continue to loom over any nascent recovery.

The hardest-hit states — California, Florida, Illinois and Michigan — account for more than half of last month’s foreclosures. Seven of the 10 metropolitan areas suffering most are in California.

The Labor Department also reported Thursday that first-time applications for jobless benefits declined last week to a seasonally adjusted 502,000 claims. That is the lowest figure since the beginning of January.

First-time Jobless claims are considered a gauge of the overall job market. The national unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent last month, the highest in 26 years.

The drops in jobless claims and foreclosures signal glimmers of recovery, though analysts suggest that much progress has yet to be made. Speaking to Reuters about the jobs numbers, Gary Thayer, chief macrostrategist for Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis, said, “We’re trending in the right direction, but we are probably several months away from [rising] monthly payrolls numbers.”

President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he will hold a jobs summit in Washington next month. “Millions of Americans, our friends, our neighbors, our family members are desperately searching for jobs,” Mr. Obama said in remarks at the White House Thursday morning,. “This is one of the great challenges that remains in our economy, a challenge that my administration is absolutely determined to meet.”

“Hiring often takes time to catch up to economic growth,” Mr. Obama said. “Given the magnitude of the economic turmoil we’ve experienced, employers are reluctant to hire.”

NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman recently examined the ongoing foreclosure crisis by speaking to journalist Alyssa Katz, who has written a sweeping new history of home ownership in America.