Thursday, April 16, 2009

Housing Starts: Near Record Low

by Bill McBride on 4/16/2009 08:30:00 AM

Total Housing Starts and Single Family Housing Starts Click on graph for larger image in new window.

Total housing starts were at 510 thousand (SAAR) in March, just above the revised record low of 488 thousand in January (the lowest level since the Census Bureau began tracking housing starts in 1959).

Single-family starts were at 358 thousand in March; just above the revised record low in January (356 thousand).

Permits for single-family units were 361 thousand in March, suggesting single-family starts will remain at about the same level in April.

Here is the Census Bureau report on housing Permits, Starts and Completions.

Note that single-family completions of 550 thousand are still significantly higher than single-family starts (358 thousand). This is important because residential construction employment tends to follow completions, and completions will probably decline further.

Total starts and single family starts declined in March (compared to February), and are both just above the record low set in January. This is the second month in a row with starts slightly above the record low - this is just a slight increase in total starts and single family starts are essentially flat with the record low.

It is still too early to call the bottom in January, however I do expect housing starts to bottom sometime in 2009.