All posts by Peter Jefferson

About Peter Jefferson

Peter Jefferson is a full-time researcher for www.businessdistrict.com, a task he took on in 2011 when the site was launched. He brings to the position a wealth of practical experience in the field of fiscal policy, having consulted with various government bodies on revenue collection, expenditure and economic growth. Contact Peter at peter[at]businessdistrict.com

Record High for Rentals in Manhattan

Have you always dreamed of living in the big city? Now may not be the time.

For the sixth month in a row, apartment rental prices in Manhattan have reached a record high. With the median rate last month at $4,150 per month, rentals have climbed 2.5% since June and a whopping 29% from just one year ago. Renters are currently shelling out an average of $5,113 per month.

According to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants, rent prices are expected to soar even higher this month as August is generally peak season. It is unclear what to expect from September, though. If the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates with the hope to curb inflation, the possibility of a recession will become more of a reality. In this situation, layoffs would be expected and demand for Manhattan rentals may decline, which would likely result in an ease on prices. However, Miller expects that rent prices will continue to climb till the year’s end, perhaps at a slower rate.

While rentals are in high demand, the dream of many to become homeowners is being put on hold. Rising mortgage rates are making the possibility of buying now impossible for many. With the current average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage now at 5.81%, families are opting out. With less buyers, the rental market is seeing extra added pressure, contributing to the increase in rates.

As the economy continues fluctuate in so many areas, the housing market will swing along accordingly. With the end of year gradually approaching, it will be interesting to see what develops. As Miller has asserted, “…it is going to come down to external factors like unemployment and hard landing to see what happens next.”

Spotify Acquires Online Music Game Heardle

The big-name streaming app Spotify has just acquired musical guessing game Heardle.

In a similar style to the popular Wordle game, players in Heardle try to guess the names of songs based on hearing the first note. After each guess, additional notes are played to help users identify the song, until the allotted six chances are up. Since the buyout, players can listen to the full song on Spotify once they’ve used all their guesses.

But, the deal has left some avid fans displeased. Many complain that their stat records have been wiped out. Others are frustrated they can’t play at all anymore, as the game is now available only in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

While acknowledging the slip-ups that have occurred in the initial days following the acquisition, Spotify also explained the company’s hopes and plans for the new deal. The app will remain free and the interface will not change. Heardle will continue to be further integrated into the Spotify platform, facilitating the opportunity for listeners to connect more with the artists they love and to interact with friends.

As with most new endeavors, there are some small bumps in the road and a whole lot of excitement and potential.

Nutritional Labels Found to Stump Shoppers

The good news is most American consumers want to eat healthy; the bad news is companies are not making that easy. In a recent study conducted by Attest, research showed that 60% of 2,000 surveyed shoppers are committed to living healthy lifestyles. They aim to buy nutritious products but 52% of the participants were concerned about the steep prices of foods said to contain special, healthy ingredients.

The survey also showed that food labels are highly misunderstood by consumers. Participants were asked to identify which of six different cereal bars was the healthiest choice. Only 9% chose the correct one, while 13% actually indicated the least healthy of the six options. Marketing slogans, such as “whole grain,” “100 calories,” or “naturally favored,” contributed to the confusion that the participants felt.

Jeremy King, founder and CEO of Attest, remarked that the results should be seen as a call to action for the food and beverage industry to reevaluate their marketing and labeling practices. King concluded: “This data shows that identifying real, healthy products appears to be a serious difficulty for American shoppers, as packaging messages simply aren’t accessible enough for consumers. With six-in-ten consumers actively looking to buy healthy food and beverage products, addressing this issue will be of significant benefit to the industry.”

When asked what would be most helpful in gaining clarity, shoppers agreed that packaging labels with straightforward nutritional information was a priority. Some added that coupons may entice people to try a product for the first time. Others wanted to see a stamp of approval from certified health officials on the product labels.

As US Violence Escalates Countries Warn Citizens to Take Care

In what is either a sign of the dangerous level of violence now plaguing the US or an overseas overreaction to that violence, three countries have issued travel advisories to their citizens planning on traveling to the United States.

The embassy of the tiny Middle Eastern island nation of Bahrain in the US issued a warning to its citizens visiting the US to “be cautious of protests or crowded areas occurring around the US.”

The Caribbean nation of Bahamas, where the majority of citizens identify as having a black African heritage, advised its people to be cautious when visit US cities which have had “shootings of young black males by police officers.”

“In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate,” Bahamas foreign ministry said in a travel advisory.

Students and other citizens of the United Arab Emirates visiting the US have also been warned to practice caution during their travels. The warnings are evocative of the comparable warnings issued by the US State Department to citizens traveling to countries where extremists have perpetrated violent acts against their own citizens as well as visitors.

“Please be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places when possible,” the UAE embassy said, urging people to stay away from any U.S. demonstrations. “Exercise particular caution during large festivals or events, be alert and stay safe.”

US Business Urging Obama and Congress to Engage PM Modi on Economic Issues

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi at Government Buildings, Dublin on September 23, 2015. Picture courtesy of Narendra Modi.

The Alliance for Fair Trade with India is pressing President Obama and Congress to move forward with the US economic relationship with India, taking advantage of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US scheduled for June.

The Alliance, which represents a broad rand of businesses from manufacturing to pharmaceuticals, has sent letters to the president and congressman saying that Modi’s visit is an important event which should include discussions about crucial commercial issues which are harming India’s ability to grow its trade economy.

“We hope you will use this visit to engage with the Prime Minister to advance both discussions and concrete action to produce a stronger and more-promising U.S.-India commercial relationship,” the Alliance wrote.

“A strong and vibrant U.S.-India relationship is beneficial not only to our two countries, but also to greater growth and opportunity throughout the world.”