U.S. home starts rose 3.5% in May and building permits climbed 8.7%

Posted by Rumin Mann
July 5th, 2011

It may be painfully slow, but it is transpiring. The U.S. economy is lumbering and lurching ahead.

The weak jobs market has been a major drag, but gradual improvement is taking place. The initial jobless claims figure has returned to around the 400,000 level. The latest number, for the week ending June 11, was 414,000. That was a decline of 16,000 versus the previous week’s 430,000.

In February and March of this year, the number of first-time unemployment insurance seekers fell below 400,000 on a fairly consistent basis. But then the number shot up again in April, to as high as 478,000 at the end of that month.

Over the last several weeks, the figure has been improving again, holding out the prospect of more significant job gains in future monthly labor reports. An initial jobless claims number of about 400,000 traditionally points to an employment gain of 100,000-plus on a monthly basis.

A prime reason employment growth has been so restrained can be found in moribund new homes construction. On that score, the news has also picked up slightly. U.S. housing starts in May were +3.5% versus April, rising to 560,000 units seasonally adjusted and annualized.

That’s still a depressingly low number. But it is moving in the right direction. Furthermore, March and April starts levels were revised upward by 8,000 and 18,000 units respectively.

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