Comments on August Housing Starts
Earlier: Housing Starts increase to 1.364 Million Annual Rate in August, Highest in 12 Years
Total housing starts in August were above expectations, and starts for June and July were revised up combined. This was the highest level of starts in 12 years.
The housing starts report showed starts were up 12.3% in August compared to July, and starts were up 6.6% year-over-year compared to August 2018.
Single family starts were up 3.4% year-over-year, and multi-family starts were up 13.7% YoY. Much of the strength this month was in the volatile multi-family sector, still - overall - this was a strong report.
This first graph shows the month to month comparison for total starts between 2018 (blue) and 2019 (red).
Click on graph for larger image.
Starts were up 6.6% in August compared to August 2018.
Year-to-date, starts are down 1.8% compared to the same period in 2018.
Last year, in 2018, starts were strong early in the year, and then fell off in the 2nd half - so the early comparisons this year were the most difficult.
My guess was starts would be down slightly year-over-year in 2019 compared to 2018, but nothing like the YoY declines we saw in February and March. Now it seems likely starts will be up in 2019 compared to 2018.
Below is an update to the graph comparing multi-family starts and completions. Since it usually takes over a year on average to complete a multi-family project, there is a lag between multi-family starts and completions. Completions are important because that is new supply added to the market, and starts are important because that is future new supply (units under construction is also important for employment).
These graphs use a 12 month rolling total for NSA starts and completions.
The blue line is for multifamily starts and the red line is for multifamily completions.
The rolling 12 month total for starts (blue line) increased steadily for several years following the great recession - but turned down, and has moved sideways recently. Completions (red line) had lagged behind - then completions caught up with starts.
As I've been noting for several years, the significant growth in multi-family starts is behind us - multi-family starts peaked in June 2015 (at 510 thousand SAAR).
The second graph shows single family starts and completions. It usually only takes about 6 months between starting a single family home and completion - so the lines are much closer. The blue line is for single family starts and the red line is for single family completions.
Note the relatively low level of single family starts and completions. The "wide bottom" was what I was forecasting following the recession, and now I expect some further increases in single family starts and completions.