The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have now published their findings for August new residential building permits. The latest reading of 1.470M was a decrease from 1.483M in July and below the forecast of 1.520M.

Here is the opening of this morning's monthly report, including a note regarding revisions:

Statement Regarding COVID‐19 Impact: Due to recent events surrounding COVID‐19, many governments and businesses are operating on a limited capacity or have ceased operations completely. The Census Bureau has monitored response and data quality and determined estimates in this release meet publication standards.

Building Permits

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,470,000. This is 0.9 percent (±1.4 percent)* below the revised July rate of 1,483,000 and is 0.1 percent (±1.5 percent)* below the August 2019 rate of 1,471,000. Single-family authorizations in August were at a rate of 1,036,000; this is 6.0 percent (±1.3 percent) above the revised July figure of 977,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 381,000 in August. [link to report]

Here is the complete historical series, which dates from 1960. Because of the extreme volatility of the monthly data points, a 6-month moving average has been included.

Housing Permits

Here is the data with a simple population adjustment. The Census Bureau's mid-month population estimates show substantial growth in the US population since 1960. Here is a chart of housing starts as a percent of the population. We've added a linear regression through the monthly data to highlight the trend.

Housing Permits Population-Adjusted

A Footnote on Volatility

The extreme volatility of this monthly indicator is the rationale for paying more attention to its 6-month moving average than to its noisy monthly change. Over the complete data series, the absolute MoM average percent change is 4.4%. The MoM range minimum is -24.0% and the maximum is 33.9%.

For visual confirmation of the volatility, here is a snapshot of the monthly percent change since 1990.