No matter how you look at it, housing starts in the US remain stuck near record low levels. This morning's release of the monthly number showed that there were 575K starts during the month of February on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR). While this figure is up 20% from the lows in April of 2009, it is still down 75% from the recent peak we saw in January 2006.
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After adjusting the data for population growth, the housing starts data shows an even more significant decline. Based on this metric, there was one housing start per 537 Americans during the month of February (0.186%). During the boom years earlier this decade, there was one housing start for every 130 Americans (0.764%). Going farther back to 1972 when housing starts as a percentage of population peaked, there was one start for every 83 Americans (1.193%). Just as the nearly uninterrupted growth in housing starts during the 1990s and early 2000s was unsustainable, the current near continuous decline is unlikely to remain in place.