SATURDAY SHORTS: The numbers tell different stories about economy

July 26, 2013 

20090916 Foreclosure

300 dpi Pai color illustration of an auctioneer holding up a home for auction in front of silhouetted figures bidding on the house. San Jose Mercury News 2009

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Describing the health and wealth of Stanislaus County depends, as with so many things, on your vantage point. This past week, the numbers told two very different stories:

• Bee real estate reporter J.N. Sbranti has been tracking foreclosures for the last 6½ years and the tally shows that from January 2007, when things started getting bad, through June of this year, almost 29,000 Stanislaus homes were lost to foreclosure, about one in five. The percentage was worse in San Joaquin County, where 21 percent of homes were lost to disclosure, and higher yet in Merced County, where nearly 25 percent of homes were lost.

As Sbranti noted in her front-page story Wednesday, the total number, 82,157 for the three counties, does not count all the houses sold through short sales, when the owner gets less than he or she had invested in the house.

While there probably are some cases of multiple ownership, that number also translates to more than 80,000 people — families, really — losing their homes. The bottom dropped out of the construction industry, idling carpenters and others and affected all sorts of ancillary fields, from real estate to furniture sales.

• During the same time period, agriculture continued its boom and Stanislaus County again had a record in 2012 for gross farm income, hitting the $3.28 billion.

Not all commodities are equally profitable. The dairy industry is a mixed bag, with some farmers struggling and some dairies going under, while others are doing better. The big growth is in almonds, and those numbers will go up with the addition of 6,300 acres in orchards east of Oakdale.

• • •

Other numbers of note:

$712,500 — the amount awarded to the Valley Consortium for Medical Education in Modesto as part of the $12 million in Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) funds to help train more than 300 physicians in primary care. The local residency program received the most among the four teaching centers that were funded in California. The consortium was started in 2009 as the successor to the county Residency Program. This funding, announced this week, is aimed at residency programs not based in big hospitals but in clinic systems. Valley Consortium residents learn and practice primarily in the county health clinic on Paradise Road and at Doctors Medical Center. Memorial Medical Center also is a partner. The consortium also has a new program to train physicians for an orthopedics specialty.

45 — The ranking for Stanislaus Surgical Hospital in a U.S. News & World Report list of the best hospitals in California. The rankings were based on various 16 adult specialties. Fifteen California hospitals were ranked among the tops in the nation; UCLA Medical Center topped the list, with 15 nationally ranked specialties, followed by Stanford, UCSF and Cedars-Sinai. The 23-bed Modesto hospital was cited for its performance in orthopedics. Seventeen hospitals shared the No. 45 spot, all with one nationally ranked specialty.

$38,400 — The average salary of a truck driver in California in 2011, according to the California Trucking Association. In a "quick facts" press release, the industry group points out that trucking provided more than 621,000 jobs in the state that year. There are 30,000 trucking companies in California.

100 — years ago this summer, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act, grants San Francisco federal permission to build Hetch Hetchy Reservoir while recognizing the rights of the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation districts to Tuolumne River water. That federal law still guides use of the Tuolumne system. Supporters of the Restore Hetch Hetchy movement consider the Raker Act the country's first environmental disaster. They will be marking the occasion next Saturday in Yosemite National Park.

15.8 — percent of California veterans between 20 and 34 were unemployed, down from 18.2 percent two years earlier, but higher than the 11.1 percent for non-veterans. Finally, a positive sign, though not definitive proof of progress.

12 — days until Modesto City Schools students return to classes. There are a few districts that begin a day or two earlier.

56 — days until the official end of summer, proving that the school calendar and traditional seasons no longer have much correlation.

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