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.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 12:43 PM Watch Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey Do a Second City Sketch in 1997
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.