New Residential Housing Starts Down in December

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have now published their findings for December new residential housing starts. The latest reading of 1.192M was below the Investing.com forecast of 1.275M and a decrease from the previous month's revised 1.299M.

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

Housing Starts

Privately-owned housing starts in December were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,192,000. This is 8.2 percent (±7.7 percent) below the revised November estimate of 1,299,000 and is 6.0 percent (±11.7 percent)* below the December 2016 rate of 1,268,000. Single-family housing starts in December were at a rate of 836,000; this is 11.8 percent (±6.5 percent) below the revised November figure of 948,000. The December rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 352,000.

An estimated 1,202,100 housing units were started in 2017. This is 2.4 percent (±2.3%) above the 2016 figure of 1,173,800. [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.