This year was a distinct challenge for many amid signs of economic recovery that cannot be ignored.
If you look at the numbers, we’re better off now than we have been in recent years, certainly since the onset of the Great Recession. Those same numbers show that a great many among us continue to struggle.
Solano County, due at least in part to its proximity to the Bay Area, was hit particularly hard by the housing market crash. Home prices saw sharp increases this year before leveling off in October (the latest figures available), when the median home price here was $266,000 – up 23 percent from a year ago but down a bit from August. Fewer homes were also sold in October, compared to October 2012. Inventory, meanwhile, remains tight.
Even with this positive trend, we’re still a far cry from the high-water mark achieved prior to the nationwide collapse of the housing market.
There’s also good news on the unemployment front, but again, we’re not yet out of the economic woods.
Solano County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate in November was 7.6 percent, the lowest rate since October 2008. That’s much better than the persistent double-digit unemployment numbers at the height of the recession and in its wake – it spiked at 12.4 percent in January 2011 – but far short of the county’s 5 percent or less unemployment rate of the 1990s, a rate that was maintained until 2006. Regionally, we still have the highest unemployment rate among the nine Bay Area counties.
All that to illustrate that while things are improving, a great many Solano County residents remain in a state of financial distress.
Fortunately, there are a number of community groups that continue to step up, particularly during the holidays, to take the edge off for many who face financial difficulties. That was again the case in the lead-up to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
The Salvation Army and Mission Solano – backed by the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano – distributed and served holiday meals to hundreds of people. Veterans groups in Vacaville did the same. Community groups such as the Fairfield Community Services Foundation and others collected toys to give to children in low-income areas of the community. Airmen from Travis Air Force Base played Santa for children at local schools, while NorthBay Healthcare workers did the same.
Little actions of giving – even something as simple as dropping some change into a Salvation Army red kettle – continue to make a difference. Whether it was giving gifts to children (or their parents, who could then give the gifts to the child), providing warm meals or simply spreading joy, the season was made better by the giving spirit of so many people in our community.
Congratulations to everyone who helped brighten the holidays for others. Here’s looking to a brighter 2014.