The Commerce Department reported this morning that sales of new homes in December fell to the lowest level since national recordkeeping began in 1963, when the population of the United States was 61% smaller. Like most housing data, new home sales are reported on an annualized basis. In December, sales were reported at an annualized pace of 331,000. The actual number sold was 23,000, a mere 6.4% of the total 359,000 new homes available for sale. Of these 23,000 homes, only half were sold before they were completed. If a new home is completed before it can be sold, the median time it will stand vacant is now more than nine months. Prices are falling too. The median sale price of a new home in December was $206,500. That’s a 9.3% decline from a year earlier and a 21% drop from the peak in March 2007. Less than 1,000 homes in the entire country were sold for more than $750,000.
In other news, the number of Americans collecting unemployment insurance surged to 4,776,000. As with so many negative statistics these days, this is the largest number since recordkeeping began in 1967. With many large companies—Caterpillar, Starbucks, Jabil Circuit, just to name a few recent ones—announcing layoffs, the ranks of the unemployed are certain to swell in the weeks ahead.