Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Housing Starts increase Slightly in January

by Bill McBride on 2/17/2010 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 591 thousand (SAAR) in January, up 2.8% from the revised December rate, and up 24% from the all time record low in April 2009 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 eight months.

Single-family starts were at 484 thousand (SAAR) in January, up 1.5% from the revised December rate, and 36% above the record low in January and February 2009 (357 thousand). Just like for total starts, single-family starts have been at about this level for eight months.

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

Housing Starts:
Privately-owned housing starts in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000. This is 2.8 percent (±11.5%)* above the revised December estimate of 575,000 and is 21.1 percent (±12.3%) above the January 2009 rate of 488,000.

Single-family housing starts in January were at a rate of 484,000; this is 1.5 percent (±11.3%)* above the revised December figure of 477,000.

Housing Completions:
Privately-owned housing completions in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 659,000. This is 12.4 percent (±7.8%) below the revised December estimate of 752,000 and is 15.3 percent (±10.5%) below the January 2009 rate of 778,000.

Single-family housing completions in January were at a rate of 427,000; this is 12.9 percent (±7.1%) below the revised December rate of 490,000.
It is important to note that many home builders started a few extra spec homes in January hoping to have them completed and sold before the home buyer tax credit expires. It takes about six months to build an average home, so the builders couldn't wait to start construction until the expected buying rush in April since they have to close by the end of June.

As I've noted before, this low of starts is both good news and bad news. The good news is 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.

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