Government Delays US Home Building Numbers

Matt Shelly
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After the government shutdown in October 2013, the Commerce Department delayed the release of the home-building numbers for September and October. The delay caused concern among industry professionals, and many expected the pattern would continue with the November numbers. Fortunately, the numbers arrived on time, released on December 18 in a joint report from the US Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The September construction numbers were initially scheduled for release on October 17. Due to the funding delays caused by the government shutdown, however, the Commerce Department failed to meet its original deadline. The delays continued in October and November; after it missed the announced release date of November 19, the government planned a new release date of November 26. That date passed without a press release, and the date was pushed back to December 18.

The government met its final release date, much to the relief of construction industry professionals. According to the November residential construction report, which was issued at 8:30 a.m. EST on December 18, the home building rates for November were higher than previous months. The number of privately owned housing starts in November was 22.7 percent higher than the revised October estimate. Single-family housing starts in November were 20.8 percent higher than in October.

For construction professionals, the news is a welcome report. Since the recent recession, the construction industry has struggled to rebound, and the current numbers are a positive indicator. For companies that handle home building projects, the news is particularly heartening.

In November, the number of completed home-building projects was lower than October's number by 0.1 percent. The difference between the two months is minimal and can easily be explained by weather and holiday interruptions. Overall, the report indicates the industry is growing steadily.

In comparison to the numbers from 2012, the November report shows sustained growth. The higher numbers indicate builders are confident that new-construction will continue to rise, which speaks to the continuing improvements in the American economy. The peak growth areas were in the Midwest and the South, while the rates in the Northeast fell slightly. In the western part of the country, growth was moderate. If the government stays on schedule, the home building numbers for December 2013 will be released on January 17, 2014.

The government numbers are a positive indication, both for construction professionals and workers in other industries. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index, which was released just before the home building report, indicates a similar confidence on the part of builders. For construction professionals, the positive numbers are an excellent way to end 2013.


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