El Paso County housing, auto sales and confidence up, UCCS report says

Housing construction is up, consumer confidence is up and more than 21,000 new cars are expected to be sold in the county by year’s end.

These are the biggest changes in this latest quarter in El Paso County from one year ago and mark some of the county’s strongest performance since bottoming out in February 2009, according to the Southern Colorado Economic Forum quarterly report.

The best performing local indicators were new single family permit activity and consumer confidence. New single family housing activity has been up every quarter in the last year.

Overall, the Business Conditions Index is 110.82, up 8.7 percent from August 2011.

Still, recovery is spotty, according to the report. Seven of the 10 BCI indicators are higher than in the previous month. However, strength has not been consistent, the report said.

Six of 10 indicators are lower than three months ago and seven of 10 indicators are lower than six months ago. In fact, the report said, were it not for housing, the total BCI would be virtually unchanged from 2007-2009 recession.

Other highlights from the report: enplanements at Colorado Springs Airport are down, despite Frontier Airlines adding seven direct, nonstop flights to major cities. Officials had hoped the added flights would produce an 8 percent increase in enplanements. However, as of June, enplanements were down 1.8 percent.

Residents may not be flying as much, but consumers are buying. Sales tax collections are up 5 percent over 2011. The gains are attributed to building materials and car sales, the report said. New car registrations are up 21 percent over last year; new vehicle registrations are expected to hit 21,200 by year’s end.

Finally, the unemployment rate for August was 9.34 percent and there are 7,224 fewer people at work in El Paso County than in 2011. The lack of employment growth has been a drag on the local economy, the report said.