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After a huge increase in employment in November, December job growth of 145,000 was more in line with the rest of 2019. Job growth in October and November was revised down by a combined 14,000.
Housing starts jumped a staggering 16.9 percent in December to 1.608 million at a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate. This was the highest level of housing starts since December 2006, when the housing market was imploding following the housing boom, and the biggest monthly increase since October 2016.
For all of 2019 starts were 1.290 million, up 3.9 percent from 2018. Single-family starts were 1.055 million in December, up 11.2 percent from November, and the highest level since June 2007. Starts can be volatile, particularly during the winter, when weather can be a major factor. But the recent strength in starts reflects more than just the weather.
The fundamentals for the housing market are very good: mortgage rates down sharply since early 2019, the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, good job gains and wage growth, record-high stock prices, and a movement back to homeownership over the shift to renting in the wake of the Great Recession and housing bust.
Industrial production fell 0.3 percent in December, the fourth decline in six months, and was down 1.0 percent from one year earlier. Manufacturing output rose 0.2 percent in December. The recent numbers have been skewed by the autoworkers strike against GM and then its resolution, but manufacturing output was basically flat throughout 2019.
Slower global economic growth, trade tensions with China and associated uncertainty, a strong U.S. dollar, and low energy prices have all been drags. The industrial sector will take another huge hit in early 2020 with Boeing’s temporary shutdown of production of the troubled 737 MAX airliner.
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