Surging Construction Sector Aids Home Sales


The Mortgage Corner

Construction payrolls were a positive surprise of the January employment report, rising 36,000 for the best gain since March. Construction was soft through most of last year though it did pick up at year end.

And this is why Pending and New-home sales are doing so well. Overall construction spending fell 0.2 percent in December but spending on new single-family homes rose 0.5 percent in the month with multi-family spending up 2.8 percent.


Graph: Econoday

This is why sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 12.2 percent in 2016 to 563,000 units, the highest annual rate since 2007, according to newly released data by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Only public construction spending fell a sharp 1.7 percent in the month. Educational spending fell 2.2 percent with highways & streets down 0.6 percent. Private nonresidential categories (ie, commercial) are mixed with total spending for this component unchanged in the month.

“We are encouraged by the growth in the housing sector last year, and by the fact that builders increased inventory by 10 percent in anticipation of future business,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “NAHB’s forecast calls for continued upward momentum this year, with housing starts expected to rise 10 percent over the course of 2017.”

The inventory of new home sales for sale was 259,000 in December, which is a 5.8-month supply at the current sales pace, an improvement from the 5 percent range most of last year. The median sales price of new houses sold was $322,500, up from.


Graph: Trading Economics

That is why housing starts, or construction, is so important in building up inventories depleted by the Great Recession. Starts jumped 11.3 percent from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1226 thousand in December of 2016, beating market expectations of 1200 thousand. Multi-segment starts rebounded while single-family declined for the second month. Considering full 2016, housing starts rose 4.9 percent to 1166.4 thousand.

“This report represents firm growth for housing in 2016, as single-family starts rose 9 percent and multifamily production was down slightly,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “We expect that 2017 will be another year of gradual, steady improvement in the housing market. Multifamily starts have been volatile in recent months, but should level off as supply meets demand. Meanwhile, single-family production continues to gain momentum but is limited by supply-side headwinds.”

So housing construction is returning to normal times. Starts in the United States averaged 1438.64 thousand from 1959 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 2494 Thousand in January of 1972 and a record low of 478 Thousand in April of 2009.

Harlan Green © 2017

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About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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