New Residential Housing Starts in October Surprise Expectations

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have now published their findings for October new residential housing starts.

The latest reading of 1.323M was above the forecast of 1.156M. The September count was revised upward by 7K.

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

Privately-owned housing starts in October were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,323,000. This is 25.5 percent (±12.6%) above the revised September estimate of 1,054,000 and is 23.3 percent (±14.4%) above the October 2015 rate of 1,073,000.

Single-family housing starts in October were at a rate of 869,000; this is 10.7 percent (±10.2%) above the revised September figure of 785,000. The October rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 445,000. [link to report]

Here is the historical series for total privately-owned housing starts, which dates from 1959. Because of the extreme volatility of the monthly data points, a 6-month moving average has been included.

Housing Starts

The Population-Adjusted Reality

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 1959. 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 Starts 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 6.3%. The MoM range minimum is -26.4% and the maximum is 29.3%.

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