New Residential Building Permits: September Above Expectations

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have now published their findings for September new residential building permits. The latest reading of 1.225M was an increase over a revised 1.152M in August and above the forecast of 1.165M.

Here is the opening of this morning's monthly report:

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,225,000. This is 6.3 percent (±1.9%) above the revised August rate of 1,152,000 and is 8.5 percent (±2.4%) above the September 2015 estimate of 1,129,000.

Single-family authorizations in September were at a rate of 739,000; this is 0.4 percent (±1.6%)* above the revised August figure of 736,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 449,000 in September. [link to report]

Here is the complete historical series, which dates from 1960. Because of the extreme volatility of the monthly data points, a 6-month moving average has been included.

Housing Permits

Here is the data with a simple population adjustment. The Census Bureau's mid-month population estimates show substantial growth in the US population since 1960. Here is a chart of housing starts as a percent of the population. We've added a linear regression through the monthly data to highlight the trend.

Housing Permits Population-Adjusted

A Footnote on Volatility

The extreme volatility of this monthly indicator is the rationale for paying more attention to its 6-month moving average than to its noisy monthly change. Over the complete data series, the absolute MoM average percent change is 4.4%. The MoM range minimum is -24.0% and the maximum is 33.9%.

For visual confirmation of the volatility, here is a snapshot of the monthly percent change since 1990.