Today’s housing data are again driving some optimistic headlines. Most notably, new starts of single-family homes in April were up more than 10% from March.
As I’ve noted in previous posts (here, for example), I think it’s useful to look not only at the number of housing starts, but also at the number of houses under construction (which reflects the pace of both starts and completions). Why? Because that gives us a sense of how much construction activity is actually taking place. As shown in the following chart, those figures suggest that the housing market is still moving sideways:
307,000 single-family homes were under construction at the end of April, essentially unchanged from March. The sudden spurt in housing starts in April was offset by a burst of completions.
In short, little has changed in construction of single-family homes over the past month or, as the chart demonstrates, over the past year. The number of houses under construction has remained remarkably constant over the past 12 months–ranging between 298,000 and 318,000–despite home buyer credits and the upturn of the overall economy.