Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Housing Starts Decline in December

by Bill McBride on 1/20/2010 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 557 thousand (SAAR) in December, down 4.0% from the revised November rate, and up 16% from the all time record low in April of 479 thousand (the lowest level since the Census Bureau began tracking housing starts in 1959). Starts had rebounded to 590 thousand in June, and have moved mostly sideways for seven months.

Single-family starts were at 456 thousand (SAAR) in December, down 6.9% from the revised November rate, and 28 percent above the record low in January and February (357 thousand). Just like for total starts, single-family starts have been at around this level for seven months.

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

Housing Starts:
Privately-owned housing starts in December were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 557,000. This is 4.0 percent (±9.3%)* below the revised November estimate of580,000, but is 0.2 percent (±11.5%)* above the December 2008 rate of 556,000.

Single-family housing starts in December were at a rate of 456,000; this is 6.9 percent (±8.5%)* below the revised November figure of 490,000.

Housing Completions:
Privately-owned housing completions in December were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 768,000. This is 11.2 percent (±13.6%)* below the revised November estimate of 865,000 and is 25.3 percent (±8.6%) below the December 2008 rate of 1,028,000.

Single-family housing completions in December were at a rate of 503,000; this is 11.1 percent (±10.2%) below the revised November rate of 566,000.
As I've noted before, this is both good news and bad news. The good news is the low level of starts means the excess housing inventory is being absorbed - a necessary step for housing (and the economy) to recover.

The bad news is economic growth will probably be sluggish - and unemployment elevated - until residential investment picks up.