US Looks To Boost International Tourism, ‘Missing Middle’ Construction Flat, Employment Growth Index
US Looks To Boost International Tourism
The Commerce Department unveiled a strategy aimed at restoring international tourism, still down considerably from pre-pandemic times and crucial to the business of hoteliers, theme parks and retailers.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced an initiative aimed at attracting 90 million international visitors annually to the U.S. over the next five years. The Commerce Department estimates those visitors would spend about $279 billion annually, supporting job creation and other benefits in the tourism industry.
The strategy, for which costs weren't outlined, includes broadening international marketing to encourage visits to “underserved and underrepresented communities,” and showcasing the nation’s federal lands and waterways through social media and existing global tourism programs. Plans call for promoting eco-friendly tourism, reducing barriers to trade and travel within the U.S. and reaching out to pro sports teams and organizers of international events including soccer’s 2026 World Cup, to be hosted by the U.S.
“The impact of COVID-19 has taken a toll on our national and local economies, but it also has presented us with a unique opportunity to mold a more inclusive, equitable, sustainable and resilient travel and tourism industry than ever before,” Raimondo said in a statement. Officials noted that when non-U.S. residents purchase goods and services while in the U.S., it counts as export income for the U.S. economy.
International visitors to the U.S. totaled 22.1 million in 2021, up 15% from 2020 but still down 72% from 2019’s 79.4 million, according to the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration. A report last month by real estate brokerage JLL noted that the return of international visitors is among keys to the full recovery of urban retail hubs in global crossroads cities including New York and Los Angeles.
‘Missing Middle’ Construction Flat
The nation is making slow progress in providing housing to middle-income consumers, according to a prominent trade group representing home builders.
There were 4,000 construction starts nationwide during the first quarter involving two- to four-unit projects such as townhouses, duplexes and other smaller multifamily properties, deemed key to providing housing to the “missing middle” that is often priced out of single-family housing, the National Association of Home Builders reported Monday.
That’s about even with the first quarter of 2021, but brings the trailing four quarters 7% below construction starts for the prior year.
As a share of all multifamily production, these medium-density projects with two-to-four units make up 3.2% of total residential units being built — well below the nearly 11% tally from 2000 to 2010. The trade group noted the 12,000 starts for these units in 2021 was flat from 2020, even as most other types of residential construction expanded significantly over the same time.
“Construction of the missing middle has clearly lagged during the post-Great Recession period and will continue to do so without zoning reform focused on light-touch density,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist for the Washington, D.C.-based trade group, in a statement.
Employment Growth Index Drops
A monthly employment gauge of The Conference Board, a prominent economic research group, declined slightly in May from the prior month, signaling slowing but still positive job growth.
The group’s Employment Trends Index was 119.77 in May, down from a revised 120.6 in April. The index is compiled from surveys of employers and job seekers and tracks changes in employment outlooks, with numbers above 100 generally seen during times of job growth.
“The labor market may have less room for more growth with overall employment down only 0.5% compared to the pre-pandemic level,” said Agron Nicaj, the New York-based group’s associate economist, in a statement. “However, leisure and hospitality and in-person services industries have yet to fully recover job losses incurred since the pandemic.
“Employment growth is still expected in these industries as consumers continue to shift more spending away from goods and toward services,” Nicaj said. He cautioned that the Federal Reserve’s focus on reining in inflation through interest rate hikes “risks higher unemployment rates by the end of 2022.”
The Conference Board’s numbers generally echo those of the Labor Department, which reported Friday that the U.S. added 390,000 jobs in May as the unemployment rate remained historically low at 3.6% for the third consecutive month. Hospitality, food services and warehousing were among May’s biggest job gainers.