This morning the Census Department released its latest look at housing activity. The headlines are that housing starts fell by 5.9% in February, mostly because of weakness in the Northeast and the South (which may well reflect February’s terrible weather). Most of the decline was in multi-family; single-family starts were essentially unchanged.
Although starts and permits usually grab the headlines, I think it’s also useful to look at another measure of housing activity: the number of houses under construction:
Not surprisingly, the chart shows that the number of single-family homes under construction fell off a cliff in early 2006. Almost 1 million new single family homes were under construction in February 2006. Today there are just 300,000.
The precipitous decline ended last summer, and housing construction has been essentially flat for several months. Perhaps housing construction has finally found bottom?