The Lehigh Valley economy has reached cruising speed, with inflation and home prices moderating, while the job market remains strong.
Annual inflation was running at 4.7 percent in the third quarter, according to The Morning Call/Kamran Afshar Consumer Price Index.
While 4.7 percent inflation is higher than the average 3.2 percent the Valley has experienced over the past decade, it's far better than the 7 percent annual inflation in the second quarter of the year. That was the highest annual inflation ever measured in the history of The Morning Call/Kamran Afshar CPI.
Just 18,500 people were counted as unemployed in September, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry . That's the second-lowest reading in five years. Meanwhile, layoffs, as measured by first-time unemployment claims, dipped below 3,000 for only the second time in the past decade.
Those factors helped knock down the unemployment rate to 4.5 percent, the lowest in six months. The state and national rates were 4.6 percent for September.
Top job-growth sectors over the past year include professional and business services, up 1,900 jobs; accommodation and food services, up 1,300; retail trade, up 1,100; and education and health services, which was led mostly by health care jobs, up 1,200.
After dramatic increases over the past few years, prices of Lehigh Valley homes have slowed to a crawl. The average sale price of an existing home in September was $221,000, just 3.3 percent more than last year, according to the Lehigh Valley Association of Realtors.
That's the third-straight month that home prices have risen less than overall inflation. That hasn't happened since the spring of 2002.