U.S. homebuilding jumped to an 13-year high in December, indicating the housing market is contributing to economic growth and buoyed by very-low unemployment and U.S. consumer strength.
Housing starts soared 16.9 percent higher to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.608 million units last month, the highest level since December 2006. Economists had forecast a gain to an annual rate of 1.373 from the initially reported 1.365 for November.
Making the December gain all the more impressive, in percentage terms the best since October 2016, data for November was revised higher to show homebuilding rising to a pace of 1.375 million units.
Starts and permits have been accelerating sharply and convincingly in the US to post-recession highs. They have been boosted by a strong labor market, high levels of consumer confidence, and the Fed’s decision to cut interest rates last year.
Compared with a year ago, housing starts were up 40.8 percent. The huge annual gain may partly be explained by changes in the weather. December of 2018 was especially wet, particularly in the Midwest and Southeast. This year saw mild weather for much of the country, which may have encouraged more housing starts than would be normal for the start of winter.