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November Housing Starts: Good Vibes

  • Builders started 1.365 million homes in November, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, up 3.2% from October and up 13.6% from a year ago. Single-family housing starts were up 2.4% from October.
  • Building permits for new housing were up 1.4% from October and 11.1% from a year ago, to 1.461 million.
  • Housing completions fell 6.6% from October, likely a relic of sluggish housing starts earlier in the year, but were up 7.3% from a year ago.

An exceptionally strong finishing kick in 2019 has the home construction industry well-positioned to enter the 2020s on solid footing. It was a bit touch-and-go earlier in the year as builders struggled to bounce back from a late-2018 spike in mortgage interest rates, stock swoon and temporary loss of confidence. But interest rates have fallen in 2019, protecting would-be buyers' budgets, and a robust labor market continues to stoke demand for housing. And as the year has progressed, the good vibes among home builders have grown: A key reading of homebuilder confidence currently sits at a two-decade high, driven up by a belief that pent-up housing demand will outweigh supply-side constraints. Make no mistake, many of those constraints remain, including scarce land and labor which have limited the industry's output for the entire year. But growth in starts and a full pipeline of permitted projects to come clearly show that builders are finding creative ways to address these challenges and deliver the new homes the market so clearly needs.

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