Houses, farms and a plug for a different kind of news product

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 12/13/19

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Whenever I have a statewide business …

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Houses, farms and a plug for a different kind of news product

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If you’re into business and the economy and you don’t subscribe to the Business North Carolina “Daily Digest” email newsletter, you’re missing out.

Whenever I have a statewide business item in the Corner Store, it usually comes from that newsletter. Not everything is necessarily business-related, but it’s a good place to get a finger on the pulse of the economy and business news in North Carolina. If you’re not already getting this daily email, head to businessnc.com to sign up.

When I get these tips, I try to apply it to Chatham as much as I can, and today is no different. Let’s get into it.

Middling future for NC housing market

According to Realtor.com’s 2020 housing forecast, central North Carolina’s housing market won’t see much change in sales but a bit of a price increase next year.

The report projects the Durham-Chapel Hill area will see housing sales drop by 0.9 percent but prices jump by 1.2 percent, and sales in the Raleigh area to increase by 0.2 percent and prices to go up by 2.2 percent.

What this means is anybody’s guess, and predictions are often wrong, but if these numbers translate to the Chatham area, it’s something to be aware of for developers like Chatham Park. If people are more hesitant to buy homes because of economic uncertainty, as the Realtor.com report says, those houses, once completed, could sit unsold for a while.

Additionally: the report says nationally, home sales are likely to decrease by 1.8 percent and prices grow by 0.8 percent.

Again, it’s a prediction, and the calendar doesn’t read “2020” yet. But it’s something to keep an eye on.

Chatham’s got help on the farm

According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, Chatham farmers have received more than $1.3 million in subsidies over the last four years.

The EWG’s Farm Subsidy Databse, which released January to October numbers for 2019 recently, says Chatham’s agricultural economy has been the benefit of $15.4 million since 1995. But the last few years can tell us some specifics.

In 2019, according to the database, county farmers have received $242,000 in commodity programs, by which producers are compensated according to acreage and yields by the federal government. More than half, $114,394, have come from subsidies for soybeans.

In the previous three years, county farmers benefited from $676,000 in crop insurance subsidies. The Federal Crop Insurance Program, run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offers insurance in the case of a loss in crop yields or a decline in revenue.

EWG said farms in North Carolina have received nearly $161 million in government subsidies to offset the cost of America’s tariff disputes.

Mental health and its harm to business

This next item isn’t Chatham- or North Carolina-specific, but is of particular interest to me and a project I’m wrapping up this week.

According to a 2018 report from Penn State University, researchers found a single extra poor mental health day a month led to a 1.84 percent drop in the per capita real income rate — in other words, $53 billion less in total income per year.

The report analyzed economic and demographic data from 2008-2014. The researchers defined a poor mental health day as a day “when people describe their mental health as not good and could include conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress and problems with emotions.” Rural counties were more affected, with one poor mental health day associated with a 2.3 percent drop in income growth, compared to a 0.87 percent reduction in urban counties.

This week, we’re publishing “The Age of Anxiety,” the first season of “The Chatcast,” our new podcast collaboration with Our Chatham. The 10-episode series, which I created with Our Chatham reporter Adrianne Cleven, will explore teen mental health in Chatham County. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Helping teens with their mental health in that fragile time could, in theory, help business and the economy down the road.

Check out “The Chatcast” to learn more. It’s worth a listen.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR, where you can find him excited about the trailer for the new James Bond movie.

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