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The Gateway Arch, the iconic giant stainless steel arch on the banks of the Mississippi River welcomes visitors to St. Louis and is the gateway to the West.
According to 2014 Census Bureau estimates, St. Louis is the 19th largest metropolitan area in the country, up about 4,600 from the previous year to an estimated 2,806,207. That was due mostly to new births outpacing deaths in 2014, and despite a negative net migration. Overall, the metropolitan area has grown less than 1% since 2010.
The current population is 77% white and 18% African American. There are small Asian and Native American communities. The median age is 38 which is higher than the national average of 36.8.
St. Louis has a relatively low cost of living (index of 86 compared to 100 nationally). The housing index is also low (52:100).
In the 1800s John Jacob Astor opened the western branch of the American Fur Company in St. Louis which made it a center for the fur trade. It later became a major transportation hub with the development of steamboat traffic and then the railroad.
Today the city’s economy is based on automobile manufacturing, aircraft and space technology, as well as a variety of factories making a variety of products from steel to beer.
There is substantial new investment in St. Louis. For example, Merck, the international pharmaceutical conglomerate recently acquired Sigma Aldrich for an estimated $17 billion. In addition a plan to revive the city center, which was started in 1999, has been a major success. It has attracted more than $3 billion in investment with about another $1 billion projected. St. Louis is also home to 9 Fortune 500 companies.
The largest employers include BJC Healthcare; Boeing Defense, Space & Security; Washington University and Scott Air Force Base.
From a high of 10.4% in October 2009 unemployment dropped to 4.9% in September 2015. The September 2015 figure is slightly less than the national average of 5.1%. In comparison, from 2009-2014 the national average dropped from 9.9% to 5.6%.
Since the end of the recession in 2009 till the present the area’s GDP has increased by 1.5% annually, which is lower than the national average of between 3.10%-4.56%. However, in 2012-2014 the St. Louis GDP increased by 5.6%.
The metropolitan area has about 40 colleges, universities and technical schools, including Washington, St. Louis and Webster universities.
There are also four interstate highways and several other major roads. The Port of St. Louis is one of the busiest in the US. In addition the area has a modern light rail system as well as buses, freight and passenger trains and local and international airports.
Real Estate Market
National housing prices were at a high in 2006 and then plummeted until 2009 with slight additional decreases until 2011. Since then housing prices have begun rising but are still not quite back to the 2006 level.
Home ownership peaked nationwide at 69.2% at the end of 2004, when the housing market was in the midst of an epic boom. The 50-year average is 65.3%.
According to the US Census Bureau, home ownership fell to 63.7% in the third quarter of 2015. That is 0.7% lower than the same quarter in 2014 and is the lowest level in almost 20 years.
In St. Louis home ownership fell 3.7% from 73% in 2006 to 69.3% in 2013.
On the national level, along with the decrease in home ownership, there is an increase in rentals. This is particularly true in St. Louis.
The national vacancy rate for the first two quarters of 2015 was 4.3%. This is 3.7% below the peak of 8.0% at the end of 2009.
The St. Louis apartment rental market is comprised of 120,385 units. The number of Class B and Class C units has remained stable at 80,000 units since 2000.Vacancies have decreased gradually every year from 9.5% in 2009 (after the recession) to 3.8% in mid- 2015. Nationwide the percentage of vacancies decreased from 6.5% to 4.3% over the same period.
Average rents have risen every quarter since the first quarter of 2010 for a total of 11.1%.