Housing construction in the U.S. was struggling at the start of 2019. Yet it ended the year with a blowout performance. In December, construction jumped 16.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.61 million homes. That was the highest level in 13 years, since the most recent housing boom. Construction of single-family homes reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.01 million homes, the highest level in nearly 12 years. And the building of apartments of five or more units hit a rate of 536,000, the best showing in more than three decades.
The gains were attributed to a strong job market, with unemployment at a five-decade low. Falling mortgage rates have also helped. The average 30-year fixed mortgage is now 3.65%, down from 4.45% at this time last year. Economists say they think the housing market, which had been weakening since early 2018, will keep providing support to the economy. But there are constraints, namely shortages of building lots and of available construction workers in some areas.