Builders Digging in, Data Shows

Home construction
Home construction

That roar you heard last month was the sound of builders pounding nails and digging the foundations of new homes, which they did at a faster rate in January than any other time in the last year.

Housing starts rose to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 591,000 per year in January, according to the U.S. Census. That makes January the top month so far in what has been a long steady rise in housing starts from its low point at 479,000 last April.

But we're still a long way from a healthy housing market. Put in context, the January numbers are still less than a third the rate in 2006 and less than half the rate in 2007. The economists at Freddie Mac predict the rate of starts will continue to rise, but won't reach 2007 levels until 2011.

Here's another clue that the mini-recovery in home building should continue. Applications for building permits -- a reliable omen of future construction activity -- were made at a quicker pace in January than any month in the last year except December.

Originally published