New Residential Building Permits: 1.3M in December

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have now published their findings for December new residential building permits. The latest reading of 1.302M was a fractional decrease from 1.303M in November and above the forecast of 1.273M.

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

Building Permits

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in December were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,302,000. This is 0.1 percent (±1.4 percent)* below the revised November rate of 1,303,000, but is 2.8 percent (±1.9 percent) above the December 2016 rate of 1,266,000. Single-family authorizations in December were at a rate of 881,000; this is 1.8 percent (±1.2 percent) above the revised November figure of 865,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 382,000 in December.

An estimated 1,263,400 housing units were authorized by building permits in 2017. This is 4.7 percent (±0.6%) above the 2016 figure of 1,206,600. [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.