CHAMPAIGN — Busey Bank Vice Chair Ed Scharlau said Champaign County has 16 percent fewer homes for sale than it did a year ago.
"It's the lowest (number of listings) since we started tracking in 2008," Scharlau said in remarks he prepared to deliver at the bank's economic seminar this morning.
Scharlau said he checks the available inventory of homes for sale on March 8 each year.
This year's drop reflects national trends, he said, noting buyers are quickly snapping up homes.
Home sales in Champaign County last year were strong, rising 21 percent from 2011, and sales so far this year are off to a good start.
To get a handle on new home construction, Scharlau consulted Illinois American Water, since every new home needs a water meter.
He found that 198 new homes were built in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy in 2012, up from 169 in 2011.
Last year, 110 homes were built in Champaign, 63 in Savoy and 25 in Urbana, he added.
Summing up other local economic statistics, Scharlau said:
— Champaign County had an estimated agricultural output of $470 million in 2012, down from a record $492 million in 2011. Despite poor crop yields due to the drought, farmers benefited from crop insurance and higher crop prices.
— The county had retail sales of nearly $2.6 billion in 2012, up about 3.2 percent from 2011. Scharlau said 20 cents of every retail dollar spent is for vehicles or gasoline.
— The payroll at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois was $870 million last year, up from $851 million in 2011. Fall enrollment was 42,883, up 277 from the previous fall.
— The payrolls of seven major health care employers — Carle Hospital, Carle Physician Group, Christie Clinic, Presence Covenant Medical Center, Health Alliance, Coventry and Stratum Med — totaled $529 million in 2012, up from $486 million in 2011. Much of the increase was related to Carle's purchase of the Hoopeston hospital, Scharlau said.