Conference Board Leading Economic Index for July; 2021

NEW YORK, August 19, 2021The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI)for theU.S. increased by 0.9 percent in July to 116.0 (2016 = 100), following a 0.5 percent increase in June and a 1.2 percent increase in May.

“The U.S. LEI registered another large gain in July, with all components contributing positively,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board. “The Leading Index’s overall upward trend, which started with the end of the pandemic-induced recession in April 2020, is consistent with strong economic growth in the second half of the year. While the Delta variant and/or rising inflation fears could create headwinds for the US economy in the near term, we expect real GDP growth for 2021 to reach 6.0 percent year-over-year, before easing to a still robust 4.0 percent growth rate for 2022.”

The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI) for the U.S. increased by 0.6 percent in July to 105.6 (2016 = 100), following a 0.4 percent increase in June and a 0.1 percent increase in May.

The Conference Board Lagging Economic Index® (LAG) for the U.S. increased by 0.6 percent in May to 106.5 (2016 = 100), after being unchanged in June and increasing 0.8 percent in May.

The next release is scheduled for Thursday, September 23 at 10 A.M. ET.

About The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S.

The composite economic indexes are the key elements in an analytic system designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle. The leading, coincident, and lagging economic indexes are essentially composite averages of several individual leading, coincident, or lagging indicators. They are constructed to summarize and reveal common turning point patterns in economic data in a clearer and more convincing manner than any individual component – primarily because they smooth out some of the volatility of individual components.

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National new home metrics for July; 2021

Building Permits


Privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,635,000. This is 2.6 percent (±0.9 percent) above the revised June rate of 1,594,000 and is 6.0 percent (±0.9 percent) above the July 2020 rate of 1,542,000. Single‐family authorizations in July were at a rate of 1,048,000; this is 1.7 percent (±0.8 percent) below the revised June figure of 1,066,000.

Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 532,000 in July.

Housing Starts


Privately‐owned housing starts in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,534,000. This is 7.0 percent (±8.9 percent)* below the revised June estimate of 1,650,000, but is 2.5 percent (±10.9 percent)* above the July 2020 rate of 1,497,000. Single‐family housing starts in July were at a rate of 1,111,000; this is 4.5 percent (±9.9percent)* below the revised June figure of 1,163,000. The July rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 412,000.

Housing Completions


Privately‐owned housing completions in July were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,391,000. This is 5.6 percent (±16.4 percent)* above the revised June estimate of 1,317,000 and is 3.8 percent (±14.4 percent)* above the July 2020 rate of 1,340,000. Single‐family housing completions in July were at a rate of 954,000; this is 3.6 percent (±16.1 percent)* above the revised June rate of 921,000. The July rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 426,000.

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Conference Board report on the influence of global travel bans

Report: Pandemic Travel Restrictions Inflict Substantial Toll on Global Growth and Trade—with No Clear End in Sight  

NEW YORK, August 11, 2021…A year and a half after the COVID-19 pandemic was officially declared, travel bans remain in place around the globe, with nearly every economy still mandating some form of restrictions on foreign travelers. A new report from The Conference Board examines the cascading costs of these measures—on the 334 million people worldwide directly dependent on the travel and tourism sector, and far beyond to long-term prospects for global growth and trade.   

According to Trade Risks: Travel Bans, the travel services industry—gutted by sudden border closures in 2020—may only recover to 50 percent of 2019 levels by the end of 2021. A full recovery of travel services would add 0.7 ppts to 2021 global GDP, lifting The Conference Board forecast of 5.3 percent growth to a full 6.0 percent. On the other hand, if travel bans persist or even tighten, current consensus growth forecasts may be too optimistic.

“For much of the world, the travel bans enacted as emergency measures in 2020 remain in place,” said Dana Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “The continued emergence of new virus variants and stubborn vaccination challenges—whether due to supply, logistics, or hesitancy—are understandably prompting governments to extend policies that heavily restrict the movement of people across borders. But with no certain end in sight, pandemic-era travel bans risk transforming longstanding expectations around the free movement of goods, services, cash, and people—and becoming a perpetual headwind holding back global economic potential.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Business travel is down dramatically—and may be slow to return. Companies are cutting costs by forgoing travel as ongoing pandemic restrictions—63 percent of governments have either a total or partial ban on foreign visitors—appear to be accelerating a long-term trend toward virtual meetings. Over the long term, this shift may threaten industries that thrive on in-person connections that drive innovation and/or sales and customer relationships.
  • Travel bans on foreign tourists are an even greater risk to economies worldwide. Tourist spending accounts for 87 percent of total global exports of travel services—which collapsed worldwide in 2020. The ongoing negative impacts of this collapse have extended beyond tourist industries directly affected by travel bans, to pummel adjacent sectors like entertainment, amusement, and food services, as well as national and regional governments dependent on tax revenues from visitors. Tourist hubs in Asia and the Caribbean have felt the brunt of these challenges, but even some of the world’s largest and richest economies—including Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Hong Kong—face outsized exposures to continued restrictions.
  • Travel ban uncertainty creates different glidepaths to recovery for the travel and tourism services trade—and consequently for global GDP growth as a whole. The path to recovery for travel and tourism activity remains uncertain given the tangle of conflicting restrictions on foreign visitors around the world. Ideally, international people flows would return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021 or early next year. However, as coronavirus variants spread, such a return to normalcy is highly dependent on the degree to which individual governments roll back travel bans and people regain confidence in the safety and reliability of international travel.
  • Travel bans threaten to sour relations between economies that choose to reopen borders quickly and those that do not. Even before the pandemic, rising geopolitical tensions were already fueling a surge in tariffs, sanctions, and protectionist sentiments. As governments choose different paths to reopening their borders, travel restrictions may become the next front for international trade friction and another prime risk to the future of globalization.
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Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index; July 2021

New York, July 27, 2021…The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® was relatively unchanged in July, following gains in each of the prior five months. The Index now stands at 129.1 (1985=100), up from 128.9 in June. The Present Situation Index—based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions—rose from 159.6 to 160.3. The Expectations Index—based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions—was virtually unchanged at 108.4, compared to 108.5 last month. 

Consumer confidence was flat in July but remains at its highest level since February 2020 (132.6),” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ appraisal of present-day conditions held steady, suggesting economic growth in Q3 is off to a strong start. Consumers’ optimism about the short-term outlook didn’t waver, and they continued to expect that business conditions, jobs, and personal financial prospects will improve. Short-term inflation expectations eased slightly but remained elevated. Spending intentions picked up in July, with a larger percentage of consumers saying they planned to purchase homes, automobiles, and major appliances in the coming months. Thus, consumer spending should continue to support robust economic growth in the second half of 2021.”

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National residential new home sales metrics; June 2021

July 26, 2021 ‐ The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly announced the following new residential sales statistics for June 2021:

NEW RESIDENTIAL SALES JUNE 2021

New Houses Sold : 676,000

New Houses For Sale : 353,000

Median Sales Price: $361,800

New Home Sales Sales of new single‐family houses in June 2021 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 676,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This is 6.6 percent (±16.5 percent)* below the revised May rate of 724,000 and is 19.4 percent (±13.9 percent) below the June 2020 estimate of 839,000.

Sales Price The median sales price of new houses sold in June 2021 was $361,800.  The average sales price was $428,700. 

For Sale Inventory and Months’ Supply The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of June was 353,000.  This represents a supply of 6.3 months at the current sales rate.

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National residential new home metrics; June 2021

The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly announced the following new residential construction statistics for June 2021

NEW RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION JUNE 2021   Building Permits: 1,598,000    Housing Starts: 1,643,000    Housing Completions: 1,324,000    Next Release:  August 18, 2021 Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) Source:  U.S. Census Bureau, HUD,

July 20, 2021 Building Permits Privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,598,000.  This is 5.1 percent (±1.1 percent) below the revised May rate of 1,683,000, but is 23.3 percent (±0.9 percent) above the June 2020 rate of 1,296,000.

  Single‐family authorizations in June were at a rate of 1,063,000; this is 6.3 percent (±1.4 percent) below the revised May figure of 1,134,000.  Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 483,000 in June.

Housing Starts Privately‐owned housing starts in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,643,000.  This is 6.3 percent (±11.5 percent)* above the revised May estimate of 1,546,000 and is 29.1 percent (±11.2 percent) above the June 2020 rate of 1,273,000.  Single‐family housing starts in June were at a rate of 1,160,000; this is 6.3 percent (±11.7 percent)* above the revised May figure of 1,091,000. The June rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 474,000.

   Housing Completions Privately‐owned housing completions in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,324,000.  This is 1.4 percent (±10.5 percent)* below the revised May estimate of 1,343,000, but is 6.5 percent (±13.9 percent)* above the June 2020 rate of 1,243,000.  Single‐family housing completions in June were at a rate of 902,000; this is 6.1 percent (±10.2 percent)* below the revised May rate of 961,000.

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Conference Board Global Consumer Confidence Index for 2Q/21

Despite Regional Challenges, Global Consumer Confidence Again Hits Record High

The Conference Board® Global Consumer Confidence Survey Finds Elevated Global Optimism
but Mixed Prospects as Progress on Vaccinations and Reopenings Diverge Worldwide

New York, July 14, 2021…Global consumer confidence ticked up to another record high in the second quarter of 2021, according to The Conference Board® Global Consumer Confidence Survey, as economic activity improved, mobility restrictions were loosened, vaccines were distributed, and COVID-19 cases declined in many regions. But concerns over health, economic recovery, and job prospects remained for many consumers worldwide amid an uneven reemergence from COVID-19.

The survey found that overall global consumer confidence rose slightly to 109 in Q2 2021 from 108 in Q1 (a figure above 100 is considered positive.) The global index now surpasses the 106 reading registered at the pandemic’s onset in Q1 2020 and is the highest recorded since the survey began in 2005. Confidence rose in 42 of 65 markets (65%) surveyed, with the strongest gains in regions like North America and Europe with relatively high vaccination rates. On the other hand, confidence declined in regions wrestling with new infections, low vaccine availability, and ongoing economic restrictions.

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“Consumer confidence continued to climb worldwide in Q2, albeit at a much slower rate than the 10-pt gain recorded in Q1,” said Dana Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “This reflects a global economic recovery that remains highly uneven, with many economies still struggling to contain COVID-19 amid a shortage of vaccines, new variants, and supply-chain bottlenecks that are raising prices. Nonetheless, the elevated level of global consumer confidence bodes well for spending and, consequently, the global economic revival in the second half of this year and into 2022.”

Additional takeaways include:

The record-setting global economic confidence was driven by declining COVID-19 cases, reopening of economies, and loosening of restrictions, but major health and economic woes remain elsewhere:

  • Confidence continued to climb from a high base in North America and the Gulf region. North America, where confidence already stood at a strong 110 in Q1, surged further to 125 in Q2—reflecting continued fiscal and monetary support as well as ongoing vaccination campaigns and loosened mobility restrictions. Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—where confidence stands at 124 (+6 pts)—also benefited from fast vaccine rollouts that have enabled a return of tourism.
  • Confidence is also returning to Europe. Both the Euro Area 16 (+7 pts to 94) and Europe as a whole (+5 pts to 92) saw confidence climb, led by improving sentiment around financial conditions. Decreasing COVID-19 cases and accelerating vaccination rates across most of Europe contributed to the improved outlook from Q1’s low base.
  • Confidence in Asia-Pacific ticked down overall as countries faced diverging COVID situations across the region. While confidence in the Asia-Pacific remained relatively high in Q2 (−3 pts to 115), sharp declines were seen in countries—led by India—that faced unexpectedly severe second (or third) waves of COVID-19. Sentiment in China rose, but other data suggests the level of confidence among Chinese consumers might be overstated given less optimistic reports on employment, retail sales, and household saving.
  • Latin America took a step backwards. Confidence across Latin America fell 6 pts in Q2 to 93, with only Peru recording a positive gain. Amid a strong winter surge in COVID-19 cases, heightened political and economic uncertainty in countries like Colombia and Argentina weighed on consumer sentiment in the region.

Overall, the second quarter of 2021 saw the world’s consumers inch back toward more typical pre-pandemic spending patterns:

  • Spending intentions drove Q2’s confidence gains. Among the three drivers of overall consumer confidence, spending intensions were solely responsible for the uptick in global sentiment. The proportion of respondents reporting that now was a “good” or “excellent” time to buy needed or wanted goods and services edged up, with the improvement most notable in North America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. Meanwhile, perceptions of job prospects and personal finances remained relatively unchanged.
  • Consumers are planning to spend as economies reopen. A year and a half after the start of the pandemic, the majority (56%) of global consumers were still focused on using spare cash for saving. This was followed more distantly by desires to purchase new clothing (37%) and holidays and vacations (33%). The focus on savings indicates remaining caution among consumers. However, the desire to buy clothing and spend on travel also indicates that consumers are looking forward to reduced mobility and travel restrictions.
  • Signs of rising inflation are not hampering spending thus far. Despite rising prices for commodities, food, energy, and a host of goods and select services in reviving economies, only very small percentages of consumers cited inflation as a problem over the next 6 months in areas like food prices (5%), utility bills (2%), or fuel costs (1%). Altogether, just 8% of respondents stated that some form of price increase was their greatest worry—unchanged from Q1 and below the pre-pandemic share of 11%.

 
Fewer consumers believed their country is in a recession—but concerns over health, the economy, and job security remain elevated.

  • A majority (60%) of global consumers still believed their economy was in recession in Q2—down sharply from the peak of 86% reached a year ago. This suggests material improvement in the global economy, again led by rebounds in several major markets, including China, the US, and parts of Emerging Market Asia and Western Europe.
  • Health remained the greatest concern among global consumers—edging up to 23% in Q2 from 22% the previous quarter.
  • The economy (16%) and job security (12%) remain high-priority issues. But concerns in these areas have ticked down compared to Q1 and are down sharply from a year ago.

Despite Regional Challenges, Global Consumer Confidence Again Hits Record High

The Conference Board® Global Consumer Confidence Survey Finds Elevated Global Optimism
but Mixed Prospects as Progress on Vaccinations and Reopenings Diverge Worldwide

New York, July 14, 2021…Global consumer confidence ticked up to another record high in the second quarter of 2021, according to The Conference Board® Global Consumer Confidence Survey, as economic activity improved, mobility restrictions were loosened, vaccines were distributed, and COVID-19 cases declined in many regions. But concerns over health, economic recovery, and job prospects remained for many consumers worldwide amid an uneven reemergence from COVID-19.

The survey found that overall global consumer confidence rose slightly to 109 in Q2 2021 from 108 in Q1 (a figure above 100 is considered positive.) The global index now surpasses the 106 reading registered at the pandemic’s onset in Q1 2020 and is the highest recorded since the survey began in 2005. Confidence rose in 42 of 65 markets (65%) surveyed, with the strongest gains in regions like North America and Europe with relatively high vaccination rates. On the other hand, confidence declined in regions wrestling with new infections, low vaccine availability, and ongoing economic restrictions.

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“Consumer confidence continued to climb worldwide in Q2, albeit at a much slower rate than the 10-pt gain recorded in Q1,” said Dana Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board. “This reflects a global economic recovery that remains highly uneven, with many economies still struggling to contain COVID-19 amid a shortage of vaccines, new variants, and supply-chain bottlenecks that are raising prices. Nonetheless, the elevated level of global consumer confidence bodes well for spending and, consequently, the global economic revival in the second half of this year and into 2022.”

Additional takeaways include:

The record-setting global economic confidence was driven by declining COVID-19 cases, reopening of economies, and loosening of restrictions, but major health and economic woes remain elsewhere:

  • Confidence continued to climb from a high base in North America and the Gulf region. North America, where confidence already stood at a strong 110 in Q1, surged further to 125 in Q2—reflecting continued fiscal and monetary support as well as ongoing vaccination campaigns and loosened mobility restrictions. Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—where confidence stands at 124 (+6 pts)—also benefited from fast vaccine rollouts that have enabled a return of tourism.
  • Confidence is also returning to Europe. Both the Euro Area 16 (+7 pts to 94) and Europe as a whole (+5 pts to 92) saw confidence climb, led by improving sentiment around financial conditions. Decreasing COVID-19 cases and accelerating vaccination rates across most of Europe contributed to the improved outlook from Q1’s low base.
  • Confidence in Asia-Pacific ticked down overall as countries faced diverging COVID situations across the region. While confidence in the Asia-Pacific remained relatively high in Q2 (−3 pts to 115), sharp declines were seen in countries—led by India—that faced unexpectedly severe second (or third) waves of COVID-19. Sentiment in China rose, but other data suggests the level of confidence among Chinese consumers might be overstated given less optimistic reports on employment, retail sales, and household saving.
  • Latin America took a step backwards. Confidence across Latin America fell 6 pts in Q2 to 93, with only Peru recording a positive gain. Amid a strong winter surge in COVID-19 cases, heightened political and economic uncertainty in countries like Colombia and Argentina weighed on consumer sentiment in the region.

Overall, the second quarter of 2021 saw the world’s consumers inch back toward more typical pre-pandemic spending patterns:

  • Spending intentions drove Q2’s confidence gains. Among the three drivers of overall consumer confidence, spending intensions were solely responsible for the uptick in global sentiment. The proportion of respondents reporting that now was a “good” or “excellent” time to buy needed or wanted goods and services edged up, with the improvement most notable in North America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. Meanwhile, perceptions of job prospects and personal finances remained relatively unchanged.
  • Consumers are planning to spend as economies reopen. A year and a half after the start of the pandemic, the majority (56%) of global consumers were still focused on using spare cash for saving. This was followed more distantly by desires to purchase new clothing (37%) and holidays and vacations (33%). The focus on savings indicates remaining caution among consumers. However, the desire to buy clothing and spend on travel also indicates that consumers are looking forward to reduced mobility and travel restrictions.
  • Signs of rising inflation are not hampering spending thus far. Despite rising prices for commodities, food, energy, and a host of goods and select services in reviving economies, only very small percentages of consumers cited inflation as a problem over the next 6 months in areas like food prices (5%), utility bills (2%), or fuel costs (1%). Altogether, just 8% of respondents stated that some form of price increase was their greatest worry—unchanged from Q1 and below the pre-pandemic share of 11%.

 
Fewer consumers believed their country is in a recession—but concerns over health, the economy, and job security remain elevated.

  • A majority (60%) of global consumers still believed their economy was in recession in Q2—down sharply from the peak of 86% reached a year ago. This suggests material improvement in the global economy, again led by rebounds in several major markets, including China, the US, and parts of Emerging Market Asia and Western Europe.
  • Health remained the greatest concern among global consumers—edging up to 23% in Q2 from 22% the previous quarter.
  • The economy (16%) and job security (12%) remain high-priority issues. But concerns in these areas have ticked down compared to Q1 and are down sharply from a year ago.
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Conference Board Employment Trends Index; June 2021

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) Increased in June

The Historically Rapid Job Growth to Continue

NEW YORK, July 6, 2021The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) increased in June, after an increase in May. The index now stands at 109.84, up from 107.70 (an upward revision) in the previous month. The index is now up 28.2 percent year-over-year (i.e., compared to June 2020).

“The very rapid improvement in the Employment Trends Index in June suggests that strong job growth will continue through the summer,” said Gad Levanon, Head of The Conference Board Labor Markets Institute. “In the coming months, the US labor market is likely to remain very tight. Recruiting and retention will remain extremely difficult, and wage growth will remain very high. Toward the end of 2021, labor shortages are likely to moderate as some of the labor supply constraints ease. But as the number of jobs in the US economy continues to grow at an historically high rate, unemployment may again dip below four percent within the next 12 months. A tight labor market is likely to be the new normal until the next recession.”

June’s increase was driven by positive contributions from seven of eight components. From the largest positive contributor to the smallest, the components were: Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers; Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance; Number of Temporary Employees; Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get”; Industrial Production; Job Openings; and Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales. The only indicator with a negative contribution was Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now.

The Employment Trends Index is a leading composite index for employment. Turning points in the index indicate that a turning point in the number of jobs is about to occur in the coming months. The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight leading indicators of employment, each of which has proven accurate in its own area. Aggregating individual indicators into a composite index filters out “noise” to show underlying trends more clearly.

The eight leading indicators of employment aggregated into the Employment Trends Index include:

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Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index; June 2021

New York, June 29, 2021…The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® improved further in June, following gains in each of the previous four months. The Index now stands at 127.3 (1985=100), up from 120.0 (an upward revision) in May. The Present Situation Index—based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions—rose from 148.7 to 157.7. The Expectations Index—based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business, and labor market conditions—improved to 107.0, up from 100.9 last month.

“Consumer confidence increased in June and is currently at its highest level since the onset of the pandemic’s first surge in March 2020,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved again, suggesting economic growth has strengthened further in Q2. Consumers’ short-term optimism rebounded, buoyed by expectations that business conditions and their own financial prospects will continue improving in the months ahead. While short-term inflation expectations increased, this had little impact on consumers’ confidence or purchasing intentions. In fact, the proportion of consumers planning to purchase homes, automobiles, and major appliances all rose—a sign that consumer spending will continue to support economic growth in the short-term. Vacation intentions also rose, reflecting a continued increase in spending on services.”

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National new home sales for May; 2021

June 23, 2021 ‐ The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly announced the following new residential sales statistics for May 2021:

NEW RESIDENTIAL SALES MAY 2021

New Houses Sold : 769,000 New Houses For Sale : 330,000 Median Sales Price: $374,400

New home Sales Sales of new single‐family houses in May 2021 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 769,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  

This is 5.9 percent (±18.6 percent)* below the revised April rate of 817,000, but is 9.2 percent (±28.7 percent)* above the May 2020 estimate of 704,000.

Sales Price The median sales price of new houses sold in May 2021 was $374,400.  The average sales price was $430,600.

For Sale Inventory and Months’ Supply The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of May was 330,000.  This represents a supply of 5.1 months at the current sales rate.

The June report is scheduled for release on July 26, 2021. 

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