December Building Permits Up 28.8 Percent Year-on-Year

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 17 2013 10:15 AM

December Building Permits Up 28.8 Percent Year-on-Year


The housing recovery trundles on with the latest Census data on housing starts and building permits showing a 28.8 percent increase in permits between December 2011 and December 2012. The noisier housing starts series showed an even bigger bump.

The two main points to make about this are that even though housing activity grew a lot in 2012 it remains at a depressed level by historical standards. Merely returning to an average year next year would still imply a very big increase in activity. The other issue is that construction employment remains at a very low level. The chart above shows the ratio of people employed in residential construction to the number of new housing starts recorded by the Census Bureau. As you can see, the construction bust starting in 2006 was associated with a large increase in the ratio. Overall of course the total number of people working in residential construction fell. But it didn't fall by nearly as much as construction activity fell. This is possibly some kind of labor hoarding phenomenon, or else lower wages made employers more profligate with their use of labor. Whatever the explanation, for now the main impact of rising housing starts is simply to push the ratio back down closer to its historic norms. For employment to really tick up we'll need a lot more construction.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.


The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.