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Newer Homes, Bigger Homes

The sequester is a major negative for government spending, and higher taxes may slow consumer spending. But the US housing sector is primed to be a shining star for economic growth this year. New housing project starts rose 0.8% to 917,000 in February. Building permits increased to 946,000- the best in 5 years. That's not all. The size of these new homes are also increasing.

According to the US Commerce Department, the median size of a new home started last year stood at a record 2,309 square feet, surpassing the previous high of 2,259 in 2006.Even more important, since a bigger home usually requires more materials and labor input, the combination of more homes and bigger home size should add to economic activity and payrolls this year.

The numbers are already talking. Residential construction added slightly to 2012 gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Construction payrolls started increasing again last summer and are rising at a 30,000 monthly pace over the last 5 months. The average work week in construction also has also steadily increased over the last 2 years.

Activity in 2013 won’t be the smoothest ride. After new projects jumped 28% in 2012, builders are confronting a shortage of buildable land and rising costs for supplies and labor, according to a survey released Monday by the National Association of Home Builders.

How important is housing and construction to our economy? Very, very, very important. An increase in construction work means an increase in construction jobs. Because building a home takes supplies, the demand for those supplies (get it?) also increases and the companies making the housing supplies also have to hire more people to meet the increased demand. Those suppliers also depend on other businesses to make the parts they need to create their supplies. There must also be truck drivers and means to ship the goods and services which also employ people. And of course, everyone needs a home to rest their heads at night... This paints of a picture of how an uptick in a sector as large as housing can create a positive ripple effect for other businesses and people like you and me.

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