The Commerce Department released August construction numbers last week to the great joy of economists and builders. Overall, construction of new homes and apartments increased 1.5%. Advanced construction permits also increased (2.7%). Construction levels are now almost 25% ahead of where they were in April.
The good news in construction was mostly confined to some odd sectors. Apartment building construction soared 25% (from very low levels). And the northeast, which hardly ever has any good economic news, saw new construction go up 24%. Most other regions were flat or down slightly (the South). As bellwethers of the economy, the positive data lends credence to economists’ opinions that the recession has now officially ended. Now lets see real estate prices recover a bit so people can sell their houses and move to where they want to live in retirement.
PS. Your editor had an interesting chat with a builder friend today. The builder specializes in buying run-down or under-improved houses in nice neighborhoods, then totally fixing them up and selling them, hopefully at a profit. He has no work now, and one reason is that there are too many nice houses on the market at reasonable prices. So although he could buy a fixer upper, chances are he will never get his money back.