Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Jobless Claims, Housing Starts

Each day the Research staff takes a look at recently released economic indicators, addressing what these indicators mean for REALTORS® and their clients. Today’s update highlights jobless claims and housing starts.

  • New jobless claims data continues to  suggest that employment situation is improving at an increasing rate. New claims were down again 13,000 to 348,000, while the 4-week average is down 1,750 at 365,250. This is a continued decreases in 10 over the last 11 weeks.
  • The 4-week average was about 10,000 higher a month ago. Levels below 400,000 indicate an expansion of the workforce. Continuing claims are also lower, a significant 100,000 to 3.426 million. The 4-week average is down 8,000 to 3.493 million.
  • If weekly jobless claims can remain at or near this range then the net new job creation in 2012 could reach 3 million.
  • Separately, housing starts  were also positive, bouncing back again this month. Starts were up 1.5 percent in January after a 1.9 drop the month earlier. January's figure of 0.699 million units was higher than expected and up 9.9 percent when compared to last year. The improvement was again driven by the multifamily component which jumped 8.5 percent.
  • New construction on buildings with five units or more increased 14.4 percent, though construction of single-family units fell 1.0 percent. Increased starts were evident in South, West and Northeast, up 18.3, 11.9, and 7.9 percent respectively, while Midwest saw a large 40.7 percent drop.
  • Housing permits were also up a little, a 0.7 percent rise, after a 1.3 percent fall in December. Permits are at an annual figure of 0.676 million units, a 19.0 percent increase over January 2011.

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