Economy Watch: Housing Starts Edge Down
- Jun 20, 2012
The Census Bureau reported on Tuesday that U.S. housing starts in May came in at an annualized rate of 708,000 units, which is 4.8 percent below the revised April estimate of 744,000 units per year. But the May rate is still significantly—28.5 percent—above the May 2011 rate of 551,000 units.
As usual, the monthly starts rate is distorted by the volatility of multifamily starts, which were 179,000 units in May. The number of single-family starts, an annualized 516,000 units, was actually up 3.2 percent month-over-month in May.
Moreover, residential building permits were also up, which tends to portent more development activity in the near future. Building permits in May were at an annualized rate of 780,000 units, up 7.9 percent from the revised April rate of 723,000 and 25 percent above the May 2011 rate of 624,000. Single-family permits came in at an annualized 494,000, in May, up 4 percent from April.
Job openings decline in April
In April, the quits rate–which is the number of people who voluntarily leave a job, and a barometer of workers’ willingness to change jobs—was unchanged for total nonfarm positions, and essentially unchanged for total private and government employment. The number of quits was 2.1 million in April 2012, up from 1.8 million at the end of the recession in June 2009.
The number of hires in April 2012 was 4.2 million, up from 3.7 million at the end of the recession in June 2009, but little changed compared with March. Over the 12 months ending in April 2012, hires totaled 50.9 million and separations totaled 49.1 million, yielding a net employment gain of 1.8 million, according to the BLS.
Asia-Pacific now #1 in millionaires
China and Japan have about 70 percent of the Asia-Pacific region’s millionaires. Surprisingly, the number of European millionaires was up slightly to 3.17 million in 2011, despite the euro-zone crisis. Millionaire growth in Russia and Switzerland, which are outside the zone, contributed to the overall expansion, but even in Germany, France and the Netherlands, the number of millionaires was up last year.
Wall Street was mildly cheerful on Tuesday, perhaps believing that QE3 is in the cards, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 95.51 points, or 0.75 percent. The S&P 500 was up 0.98 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 1.19 percent.