The Mortgage Corner
We believe housing construction is about to bloom this spring, due to growing employment. For starters, an additional 45,000 construction jobs were added to nonfarm payrolls in April. This is even though construction spending to date has been flat, according to the Commerce Department. The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced that construction spending during March 2015 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $966.6 billion, 0.6 percent below the revised February estimate of $972.9 billion. But the March figure is 2.0 percent above the March 2014 estimate of $947.3 billion.
And sales of new single-family houses in March 2015 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 481,000, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is slow because of winter weather, but it is still 19.4 percent above last year’s March 2014 estimate of 403,000.
And, housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,039,000, 5.7 percent below the revised February rate of 1,102,000, but is 2.9 percent above the March 2014 estimate of 1,010,000, signaling more construction ahead. And the single-family component is up 4.4 percent from February, which is double the multi-family component. Single family construction employs many more workers per unit.
This is while overall employment could be returning to pre-recession levels, as we said last week. The U.S. churned out 223,000 new jobs in April, and the unemployment rate slid to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent, which means the US economy’s deep freeze was temporary. It was a short hibernation, in a word, but we are still not out of the Great Recession woods, as we said last week.
The Small Business Optimism Index also increased 1.7 points from March to 96.9, reports the NFIB, with the employment component especially strong. Small business does 50 percent of all hiring, so this is another sign of a healthy jobs market. Twenty-seven percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, up 3 points from March. And a net 11 percent plan to create new jobs, up 1 point and a solid reading.
Lastly, the Labor Department’s most recent JOLTS report showed 5 million job openings, and a higher Quits rate, meaning more workers were able to quit their current job to find a better position. Quits are up 14 percent year-over-year. These are voluntary separations, as we said (see light blue columns at bottom of graph for trend for "quits"), and the number of job openings are up 19 percent YoY, which is another sign of a robust jobs market.
The bottom line is housing construction should begin to expand in the spring and summer. This will ultimately relieve the problem of lack of inventory, and should help first time homebuyers by relieving price pressures that have been increasing as housing stocks have declined.
Harlan Green © 2015
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