October 2003

Industry Stats

Home Building Hit 17-Year High in July
Revving into higher gear for a third consecutive month, homebuilders increased the pace of housing starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.87 million units in July, the Commerce Department reported recently. This is 1.5 percent above June’s upwardly revised 1.85 million-unit pace and is the strongest rate of housing production since April 1986.

“It’s shaping up to be a very busy summer for homebuilders,” said Kent Conine, president of Atlanta-based National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home and apartment builder from Dallas. “Favorable interest rates, signs of an improving economy, healthy gains in home values and strong household formations are all fueling demand for new homes, and builders are responding to the times.”
NAHB chief economist David Seiders concurred. 

“Clearly, low mortgage rates continue to help energize the marketplace despite their recent upward movement, and builder confidence in the market for single-family homes hasn’t skipped a beat,” he said. “Housing was a strong growth engine for the economy in the first half of the year, and it now appears that housing will provide solid support to the gross domestic product in the third quarter as well.”

July’s gain in housing starts was entirely on the single-family side, where a nearly 2-percent increase was recorded to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.52 million units. “This is a 25-year high for our industry,” said Conine, noting that the latest construction pace is the strongest since the 1.53 million-unit rate reported in November 1978.

Multifamily housing starts continued at a healthy pace in July, with virtually no change from the previous month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 351,000 units. This was 0.6 percent below June’s 353,000 units. 

Construction of new homes and apartments rose in all but one region in July, with the Northeast posting the biggest gain, of 19 percent. The Midwest and South reported moderate gains of 5.7 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, while the West posted a nearly 14-percent decline following a big run-up in the previous month.

Housing permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, also held at healthy levels in July. A 0.3-percent decline left single-family permits virtually unchanged at 1.42 million units, seasonally adjusted. Meanwhile, the multifamily sector—which tends to fluctuate more from month to month—posted a 9.8 percent decline to 357,000 permits. Combined, these numbers accounted for an overall dip of 2.4 percent to a rate of 1.78 million permits for the month.

Regionally, the permits report was mixed, with the Northeast and West posting gains of 1.3 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, and the Midwest and South showing declines of 5.3 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.

“With an average rate of 1.76 million housing starts for the first seven months of this year and the considerable strength of NAHB’s Housing Market Index in August, we’re now very likely to beat last year’s healthy housing production of 1.7 million units in 2003,” Seiders said. 

Value of Imports to U.S.

  May 2003 June 2003
Finished Products

Plastic Windows, Frames and Thresholds for Doors

21,343,719 23,572,365
Stainless Steel Doors, Windows Thresholds and Frames 1,771,472 2,159,285
Aluminum Windows and their Frames 6,954,543 5,042,755
Wood Windows, French Windows and their Frames 9,636,901 12,053,814
Pine Standard Wood Moulding 35,029,732 32,794,986
Standard Wood Moulding, Nonconiferous 7,582,474 7,336,747
Wood Flooring


8,455,016 8,003,160
Ponderosa Pine, N/Trtd Rough, Finger-Jointed 40,873 12,073
Douglas Fir, N/Trtd, Finger-Jointed 8,335,361 8,195,297
Fir, N/Trtd, Finger-Jointed 1,762,543 1,524,156
Hemlock, N/Trtd Rough, Finger-Jointed 897,972 641,365
Redwood, N/Trtd, Finger-Jointed 248,022 189,715
Western Red Alder Lumber, Rough 936,637 2,073,408


Value of Exports to U.S.

  May 2003 June 2003
Finished Products
Plastic Windows, Frames and Thresholds for Doors
2,918,194 3,293,506
Wood Windows, French Doors and their Frames 4,617,826 3,979,282
Wood Flooring 7,604,140  9,018,381
Ponderosa Pine, N/Trtd Rough, Finger-Jointed 
112,755 199,308
Douglas Fir, N/Trtd, Finger-Jointed 2,838,585 2,004,968
Fir, N/Trtd, Finger-Jointed 466,717  446,108
Hemlock, N/Trtd Rough, Finger-Jointed 567,839 580,856
Redwood, N/Trtd, Finger-Jointed  252,919 388,088
Western Red Alder Lumber, Rough 6,386,900 9,027,911

Source: U.S. Commerce Department


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