1. Chicago home sales were up by 26.6% in November over last year. That’s the 17th straight month of YoY increases in home sales – the last 9 of which have been double digit.
2. Excluding coal shipments (which have been on the decline due to the shift to natural gas), rail shipments for the week ending December 1 were up by 7% over last year, and YTD carload shipments are up by 3%. Intermodal shipments are up by 3.3% YTD. Lumber is up 12.8% YTD, petroleum products by 45.2% and motor vehicles by 16.7%.
3. The North Dakota oil fields have boosted Amtrak ridership by 4X, but Amtrak still can’t make money on the Empire Builder Line.
4. From today’s BLS report: 1) Temporary help employment (a leading indicator of labor demand) increased to 2.56 million in November, the highest level since November 2007 before the recession started. 2) Oil and gas jobs increased in November to 196,300, the highest level for those jobs since February 1988, almost 25 years ago.
5. Tough job market: Survey finds that fewer than 2/3 of new Ph.D.s in 2011 found academic jobs or post doc positions. Unemployment rate for Ph.D. academic positions > 33%.
6. “You Can Give a Boy a Doll, but You Can’t Make Him Play With It.” Christina Sommers discusses the logistical and ethical problems with trying to make toys gender-neutral.