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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Paper: Housing and the Business Cycle

by Calculated Risk on 9/11/2010 03:05:00 PM

From Steven Gjerstad and Vernon Smith in the WSJ: Why We're in for a Long, Hard Economic Slog (ht MrM)

In the Great Depression and in every recession since, recovery of residential construction has preceded recovery in every other sector, and its recovery has been far larger in percentage terms than the recovery in any other major sector.

Applied to the Great Recession, it appears that those who see signs of a recovery may be grasping at straws.
This is something I've been writing about since I started the blog in 2005, but it is worth repeating ... even though Residential Investment usually only accounts for around 5% GDP, it isn't the size of the sector, but the contribution during the recovery that matters - and housing is usually the largest contributor to economic and employment growth early in a recovery.

But not this time because of the large number of excess housing units.

Here is the paper from Steven Gjerstad and Vernon Smith: Household expenditure cycles and economic cycles, 1920 – 2010

This has key implications for policy. As an example, a policy (like the housing tax credit) that encourages adding to the housing stock (new home construction) is a clear mistake, whereas policies that are aimed at household creation (jobs) or at least household preservation (like extended unemployment benefits) make more sense. Also policies aimed at supporting house prices - keeping the price above the market clearing price - are counterproductive and also a mistake.