US housing starts up 40% in last year but still half of 50-year average

Housing starts in the US were up today. The Wall Street Journal writes that number came in at 717,000.

U.S. home building grew in April, the latest sign that the recovery may be strengthening in the long-struggling market.

Home construction increased 2.6% from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 717,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Year-over-year, starts were up nearly 30%.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast April’s housing starts would grow to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000. That would have been a 4.7% jump from the prior month’s previously reported figures. March starts, however, were revised significantly upward to a rate of 699,000 starts from a previously reported 654,000.


This year’s home construction figures, while up from a low of 478,000 in April 2009, are still well below the historical average. Builders have started construction on about 1.5 million new homes per year since 1959.

Get that? This is half the average over the last fifty years. Reuters’ Scott Barber is really churning out the charts. Here is another one that is absolutely astonishing.

When people tell you housing is rebounding, they should look at this chart. It gives you a sense of how far things have to go. We are definitely in a seasonal upswing, maybe even a cyclical one. But I think its premature to say we are in a secular rebound in housing – and that really is the only rebound that matters if you look at this chart. After all we have no idea when the next cyclical slowdown will hit the US. I guarantee you that house prices will resume falling if the US has a recession anytime between now and 2015.

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