Housing Starts Rise 1.9% in October
In October, housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.372 million, surpassing the forecasted 1.345 million. This marks a 1.9% increase from September and a 4.2% decline compared to one year ago.
Here is the opening of this morning's monthly report:
Privately‐owned housing starts in October were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,372,000. This is 1.9 percent (±13.5 percent)* above the revised September estimate of 1,346,000, but is 4.2 percent (±10.0 percent)* below the October 2022 rate of 1,432,000. Single‐family housing starts in October were at a rate of 970,000; this is 0.2 percent (±8.8 percent)* above the revised September figure of 968,000. The October rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 382,000. [link to report]
Background on Housing Starts
Housing starts track how many residential buildings began construction in the preceding month. The data is divided into three types of structures: single-family homes, residences with 2-4 units (condos or townhouses), and structures with 5+ units (apartment complexes). A critical aspect of the home-building industry is the powerful influence it has on the rest of the economy.
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 six-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: A Footnote on Volatility
The extreme volatility of this monthly indicator is the rationale for paying more attention to its six-month moving average than to its noisy monthly change. Over the complete data series, the absolute MoM average percent change was 6.3%. The MoM range minimum was -27.0% and the maximum was 29.3%. The latest month-over-month percent change is 1.9%.
For visual confirmation of the volatility, here is a snapshot of the monthly percent change since 1960.
A Long-Term Look: Residential Building Permits and Housing Starts
In addition to housing starts, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development published their October findings for new residential building permits. Despite the fact that both are monthly seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) series, they are exceptionally volatile and subject to extensive revisions. Thus it is unwise to assign much significance to a single month.
Over the long haul, however, the two offer a compelling study of trends in residential real estate, especially when we adjust the permits and starts for population growth. Here is an overlay of the two series since the 1959 inception of the starts data and the 1960 inception of the permits data. The monthly data points are preserved as faint dots. The trends are illustrated with six-month moving averages of data divided by the Census Bureau's mid-month population estimates.
Here is a closer look at the overlay since 1990.
ETFs associated with residential real estate include: iShares Residential and Multisector Real Estate ETF (REZ).
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