No recession soon for Connecticut, economist says

BRANFORD — The chief economist for the National Association of Realtors told members of a housing trade group Thursday that despite some of the challenges Connecticut’s economy is facing, he doesn’t expect the state to fall into a recession either this year or next.

Lawrence Yun told members of the New Haven-Middlesex Association of Realtors that employment growth in Connecticut is one percent lower than it was in January 2000. Over the same period, employment at the national level grew by 13 percent, Yun said.

But he said a shortage of moderately priced housing in Connecticut could drive economic growth in the state if home builders rise up to fill the void.

“If we build new homes, it will support the economy,” Yun said. “If you build these homes, more people will be working. We’re not building enough single-family homes.”

Yolonda Lowe, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties in Essex, said she’s seeing a good deal of sales activity with moderately priced, single-family homes. Lowe is the president of the New Haven-Middlesex Association of Realtors.

Yun’s assessment of the state’s housing market came even as the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development reported that new housing permits for 613 units were issued last month, more than twice the number of permits that were approved in April 2018. And of the new housing permits issued last month, more than 70 percent were for multi-family housing in buildings of five units or more, according to the data from DECD.

“There is a slow shift to a rental society in Connecticut,” Yun said. And that shift, he said, is being driven by the housing preferences of members of the millennial generation, born between 1981 and 1996.

“There is a general preference among millennials for downtown living, for walkable cities,” Yun said. “They have put off having children so that meets their needs. But once they have kids, they’re going straight out to the suburbs.”

Connecticut benefits from having housing prices that, compared to more popular urban areas such as Boston, are relatively affordable, he said. If the state is able to find a consistent engine for job growth, Yun said that factor could be beneficial to the state’s economy.

Among regions of Connecticut, the New Haven area has been a job growth engine compared to other parts of the state, he said.

The New Haven area has seen 4 percent growth in employment since 2000, according to Yun. By comparison, he said the Stamford-Norwalk area saw a 3 percent employment decline, while the Hartford area had a one percent gain.

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com

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