Economic snapshot: Housing up, unemployment down

This has shaped up to be a pretty solid week of economic news, with housing leading the way.

Housing starts

Starts swung up in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of just over 1 million. Although down from April, that’s a 9.4 percent increase from May 2013 – and year-over-year is the important number to watch here. Starts were over an annual rate of 1 million for just the fourth month since 2008.

Total housing starts for the year are up 6.5 percent from 2013, with the surging multifamily market leading the way with a 17 percent jump this year. Single-family starts are up 2.5 percent.

Distressed sales

Another sign of strength for the housing market? Distressed sales, including short sales and foreclosures, are down in almost all markets across the country, according to analysis by economist Tom Lawler

Some key markets:

  • Las Vegas, where distressed sales in May were 17 percent of sales, down from 42.1 percent in 2013
  • Phoenix, 10.7 percent, down from 22 percent
  • Minneapolis, 16 percent, down from 26.7 percent
  • State of California, 12.9 percent, down from 26.3 percent

Commercial construction

We could be seeing an increase in commercial construction soon as well, with the Architecture Billings Index, an important leading indicator for construction activity up in May.


Weekly claims were down 6,000 this week to 312,000.  The four-week moving average is 311,750, right in line with a normal expansion level.

Monthly numbers for the states come out Friday.

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