The Economy Today: Housing Prices Stabilizing?

A roundup of national and regional economic headlines

The New York Times leads today with the apparent steadying of the real estate market, as a widely used index showed prices were essentially flat from April to May. The relief of some observers at the halt in price declines is palpable: “Recession is over, economy is recovering—let’s look forward and stop the backward-looking focus,” one economist said. Still, the story comes with plenty of caveats, among them the fact that the number of buyers who actually moved into new homes in the second quarter fell by 2.6 percent. That suggests many of the sales are to investors and speculators.

On the stimulus front, an Associated Press story (carried in The Washington Post) noted that $1 billion in federal aid to help pay for local cops was announced yesterday, but the distribution process has come under fire. The money “was sent to places with the highest crime rates and the biggest budgetary problems,” which meant some cities had applications denied because their problems weren’t bad enough. Regional papers across the country feature stories on the local impact. In New York, which was shut out, both local officials and local tabloids were fuming. But in Philadelphia, where the announcement was made, $10.9 million in aid will help keep 50 cops on the job for the next three years, reports the Inquirer.

There’s stimulus fallout of another sort developing in Texas, where Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who is challenging Gov. Rick Perry in the GOP primary, has begun criticizing the incumbent for not accepting federal funds, reports the Star-Telegram. The number of Texans receiving unemployment benefits has doubled, but Perry rejected $555 million in federal money to extend benefits, arguing the program would have put state businesses on the hook in the long run.

Meanwhile, up in Rochester, N.Y., the Democrat & Chronicle reports that local teachers are facing a demand: Give up promised pay raises, or see 170 positions eliminated in layoffs. There’s no resolution yet. The story doesn’t examine this point closely, but the local union president claims the crisis was worsened because the district misused its stimulus funds.

Finally, The Wall Street Journal takes a snarky look at small-bore efforts the federal government has made to cut costs and trim the deficit, among them double-sided photocopying and deleted old email accounts. Cabinet agencies fulfilled President Barack Obama’s order to trim expenses by identifying $102 million in cuts. “That,” writes the Journal’s Jonathan Weisman, “is 0.006% of the estimated federal deficit.”

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.