Really Raw Data: July 2010 Is Worst July on Record for Housing Starts, Permits

HousingDownHere's how the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger and Daniel Wagner reported the housing portion of their Tuesday report on the day's economic news ("Factories aid bumpy recovery, housing still weak"):

Single-family home construction, which represented nearly 80 percent of the market, fell 4.2 percent. And requests for building permits, considered a good sign of future activity, slid 3.1 percent.

... The July increase in housing construction pushed total activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 546,000 units. Building activity in June was weaker than first reported. It fell 8.7 percent to an annual rate of 537,000 units, the slowest pace since October of last year.

"The bad news is that activity is likely to remain depressed for several years," said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "The good news, however, is that housing is so depressed it is hard to see activity falling much further from such a severely depressed level."

Well, okay, but the situation is already closer to a zero-out than it is to the levels we were seeing just a few years ago--or any time in the 50-plus years such records have been kept. Looking at the raw data on a historical basis, one finds that July 2010 was the worst July on record for the both stats the AP pair cited:

HousingStartsAndPermitsJuly1959to2010

This is on top of the worst June ever last month for housing starts and new home sales (noted on July 27 at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog; new home sales haven't been released yet). And note that June 2010 was revised down even further with the release of the July data.

It doesn't matter how much you season (i.e., seasonally adjust) the raw data before presenting it to the public; the raw data still stinks like it never has before. Both stats, which happen be identically awful, are even worse than July of last year, when the economy (but apparently not the housing market) bottomed out. There aren't a lot of compelling reasons to believe that the housing situation is going to get much better any time soon -- at least as long as "An explicit federal guarantee of a large portion of the mortgage-backed securities created to finance American’s home mortgages" is considered a key linchpin of housing policy. The "implicit" guarantees of the debt government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became explicit as soon as they imploded in September 2008. From all appearances, they're ready to do what caused that to happen all over again.

You don't get the impression that things are as bad as they really are from the AP pair's reports. That doesn't change the fact that things really are that bad, and unprecedentedly so.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.