US housing used to be a $35bn chemicals market, with 2.2m housing starts in 2006, each with a $16.7k chemicals value.
Last year, total housing starts were just 550k, for a value of only $9bn. And as the chart above shows, from the American Chemistry Council, the annualised rate (blue line) was just 575k in February. Building permits (red), an indicator of future building activity, increased 11% to 612k.
The depth of the current downturn is shown by the fact that it would take a 35% increase from 2009’s level just to get back to the lowest level of housing starts seen between 1959-2008. Optimists argue that a major downturn leads to a strong recovery, but with 15% of Americans either in foreclosure, or at least one mortgage payment overdue, the blog fears this optimism is misplaced.