What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell us

Anxieties high of low housing starts

Jeremy Hobson Mar 18, 2008


Scott Jagow: The financial markets are getting all the attention right now, but let’s not forget about the housing market. It’s a huge reason the economy is wobbling. This morning, we’ll find out how many new homes were built last month. Jeremy Hobson has more.

Jeremy Hobson: Economist Peter Morici says investors are just hoping housing starts have finally bottomed out.

Peter Morici: Just stay the same, hopefully it will just stay the same. If it goes up slightly, that’s fine, but all we need for it is to stay the same.

If you’re wondering about the anxiety, just look at housing starts on a historical graph. The number is about half what it was just a year ago. And it’s at a low ebb seen predominately in recessions.

But economist Patrick Newport with Global Insight says he doesn’t expect a rebound till summer.

Patrick Newport: The third quarter will probably be the weakest quarter in history.

Newport says the housing starts number is indicative of where the economy is right now.

Newport: Well unfortunately, it’s the adjustment that has to take place right now, because there are just too many houses out there. And so builders had to cut back and housing prices have to continue dropping.

The size of that drop will become clearer when the government releases home sales figures next week.

In Washington, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.