An Update for the 7 Rivers Region

State Bank Financial, in cooperation with UW-La Crosse, initiated a long-term study in early 2002 of our region's economic indicators. The research is ongoing and focuses on trends for a nine-county region that includes counties in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. This project is expected to continuously build a base of economic information and provide decision makers with valuable tools for strategic planning. The information will also provide a basis for comparison with other regions and a measure of our progress as a region.

Semi-annual breakfast meetings each provide a general update on core indicators and also a focus on a selected economic topic. In addition to the open forum, findings are also summarized in a print publication distributed at the meetings and available here on our web site.

We have also provided links to the core economic indicators. Readers can use these links as needed for individual research projects.

Core Economic Indicators Defined

Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate is the percentage of the labor force that is unemployed (actively looking for work). It is a key indicator of the performance of the economy, generally lagging economic activity. It is tracked monthly for the nation, state and counties of the Seven Rivers Region.

Total Employment

Total number of persons of 16 years and over in the civilian non-institutional population who are employed, this is probably the most important and consistent indicator of the current economic situation. It is tracked monthly for the nation, state, and the counties of the Seven Rivers Region.

Gross Domestic Product

The GDP is the total market value of all goods and services produced within a country during a given period of time, usually one year. This is the government's official measure of how much output our economy produces. It is tracked quarterly for the nation.

U.S. Leading Index

The purpose of the leading indexes is to predict changes in the coincident indexes, which reflect the present state of the economy. The U.S. Leading Index is a composite index of ten economic indicators compiled by The Conference Board, which are designed to signal the direction of the economy in a timely and consistent manner.

WI Composite Index Leading Indicators

Leading indicators tell about economic activities that change pace before shifts of the economy as a whole. The composite index combines several leading indicators into a single number. The index number combines the values of five series, making it a more reliable indicator than a single indicator.

Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is an index that measures changes in the price of a basket of typical consumer goods. The changes in the index reflect price changes; hence monthly changes in the CPI represent the rate of inflation. The CPI is a widely used indicator of inflation (or deflation) and indicates the changing purchasing power of money in the U.S.

Consumer Sentiment Index

The University of Michigan's Survey of Consumers asks questions of the public concerning their current financial position and their prospects for the future. The index can be helpful in predicting sudden shifts in consumption patterns. This information is tracked at the national level. A similar index for the Seven Rivers Region was built using an instrument similar to that of the Survey of Consumers.

Seven Rivers Regional Consumer Sentiment Index

Using a survey instrument similar to that used in the University of Michigan's Survey of Consumers, an index is compiled for the Seven Rivers Region. It is produced by the College of Business Administration students at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.

Real Weekly Earnings

Remuneration (pay, wages) of a worker or group of workers for services performed weekly, real weekly earnings indicate the rate of real wage gains for workers, and therefore their buying power.

30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgages

Reported by Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is the most common way to finance the purchase of a home. A fixed rate mortgage carries an interest rate that will be set at or before the time of the loan, and remain constant for the length of the mortgage. If you have a 30-year mortgage, the rate you pay will be fixed for all 30 years. At the end of the 30th year the loan is fully paid off.

Federal Funds Rate

The interest rate that banks charge each other when loaning bank reserves through the federal funds market is a key interest rate in the economy because it helps to determine banks' minimum cost of getting funds. If the federal funds rate is higher, then banks are likely to raise the interest rates they charge, like the prime rate, home mortgage rate, or the rate on car loans. It is also the current target interest rate for the Federal Reserve's monetary policy.

Cost of Living

The amount of income or money needed to acquire a given quantity of goods and services or to achieve a given living standard. The cost of living is typically indicated by a price index such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI, for example, measures the changing cost of a specific market basket of goods. An increase in the CPI indicates that the cost of this market basket has increased, and presumably so, too, has the cost of living. This information is tracked for the La Crosse MSA, using

Housing Permits

A measure of the number of residential units on which construction is begun each month is tracked because an increase in building permits usually occurs a few months after a reduction in mortgage rates. It represents a large portion of the volatile investment component of GDP. It indicates expectations for the future, since new home construction is a large expenditure. This is currently tracked at both the national level and the local La Crosse MSA.

Per Capita Income

The level of average income during a period of time is obtained by dividing the total income of workers by the total population. The resulting figure is referred to as per capita income. This is a measure of the standard of living and is reported annually for the nation, state, and individual counties with a 2 year lag.

Median Family Income

Another indicator is the level of income at the middle of an array wherein economic units, e.g. families, are arranged from increasing order according to the size of their income. This is another measure of the standard of living and is reported annually for the nation, state, and individual counties with a 2 year lag.

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