New home starts drop in December; down 14 percent from year before

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The U.S. Census Bureau and US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a their report on New Residential Construction for December 2010 showing a 5.5 percent increase in single-family home building permits from November, but a 9.0 percent decrease in new home starts compared to the month before.

The report shows:

  • Building permits issued for single-family residences in December were at an annual rate of 440,000 which is 5.5 percent above the revised November rate of 417,000 and a decrease of 6.8 percent from a year ago when the rate was 517,000.
  • Housing starts for single-family residences in December were at an annual rate of 417,000 which is a decrease of 9.0 percent from the revised rate for November of 458,000 and an decrease of 14.2 percent from a year ago.
  • Homes completed in October were at a rate of 463,000 homes, an increase of 5.5 percent from November’s revised rate of 439,000 homes and a decrease of 6.5 percent from a year ago.

As I say every month, we need to remember that all the numbers above are “seasonally adjusted” annual rates and the year over year comparisons are just comparing the numbers for December 2010 versus December 2009. Another way I like to look at where things stand is to simply look at the year to date data; actual numbers, not seasonally adjusted, compared to last years ytd numbers at this same time. I think this may give a little better comparison so those numbers are below:

  • For 2010 there were 446,400 permits issued for new homes compared with 441,100 this time year for an increase of 1.2 percent.
    • In December there were 30,200 permits issued, an increase of 2.7 percent from November.
  • For 2010 there were 470,900 new homes started compared with 445,100 last year for an increase of 5.8 percent.
    • In December there were 26,200 new homes started, a decrease of 20.8 percent from November.
  • There were 497,100 new homes completed in 2010, a decrease of 4.4 percent from the year before.
    • In December there were 44,600 new homes completed, an increase of 14.6 percent from November.

Let’s do one of my favorite things and look at the raw numbers and not seasonally-adjusted numbers to compare construction activity to sales:

  • Through November, 2010 (the most recent period sales data is available for) there have been 299,000 new homes sold and there have been 452,500 new homes completed, outpacing sales by 51.3 percent.
  • Through the end of September there have been 444,700 new homes started outpacing the new ytd home sales activity through September by 48.7 percent.

As I keep saying…..I don’t get it…..I hear some economists predicting a coming shortage of new homes, and almost everyone applauds when the number of homes being built increases. For months now, even at the drastically reduced rates of construction, there are still 50 percent more homes being built than are being sold.


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