Foreclosures Plunged This Year — Why Isn’t That Good News?

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Illustration by Alexander Ho for TIME

Real estate foreclosures — what a mess. Want a visual? Go spill half a can of cola on your kitchen floor. Did it clean itself up? I thought not. The same thing is happening with foreclosures.

New data for the first half of the year shows that foreclosures dropped 29% from the year before. That’s a stat from data provider RealtyTrac, which shows foreclosures also dropped 25% from the prior six-month period.

Good news, right? Not according to RealtyTrac, which is hypothesizing that the other half of the can of soda is yet to come. The quote from James Saccaccio, RealtyTrac’s CEO, was that “1 million foreclosure actions that should have taken place in 2011 will now happen in 2012, or perhaps even later.”

(MORE: Why Real Estate May be the Buying Opportunity of the Decade)

The problem, the argument goes, is delays on the part of the banks, which now take a couple of years to complete foreclosures in states like New Jersey and New York.

I don’t think the situation is quite as bleak as that. As I noted in an article I wrote last month, there are indications that we’re seeing some “mopping up” and that the situation is slowly getting better in a key state, Florida.

But here’s an idea: If the problem really is that banks aren’t processing foreclosures, and we still have continued recessionary high unemployment rates, why don’t we just put those jobless people to work processing foreclosures?

Mops for all!