SBB Research Group on the Survey of Construction

While many people are familiar with the United States Census, which is taken every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution, there are actually over 100 different surveys conducted by the US Census Bureau each year. In this educational series, SBB Research Group summarizes key information from about these lesser-known—but highly important—surveys.

What is the Survey of Construction?

The United States Census Bureau, which is partially funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development,conducts the Survey of Construction to provide current national and regional statistics for:

  • Starts and completions of new, privately-owned single-family and multi-family housing units
  • Characteristics of new, privately-owned single-family and multi-family housing units (e.g., bathrooms, bedrooms, materials used, lot size, and financing)
  • Sales of new single-family houses (number sold, total price, and price per square foot)
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Monthly and annual data is available for housing starts since 1959. Data sets for new home sales and completions are available from 1963 and 1968, respectively.

Methodology for the Survey of Construction

A multi-stage, random selection procedure is used to provide nationwide coverage of residential building activity. The process samples approximately 900 building permit offices and 70 land areas not covered by building permits.Then, a random sample of permits are selected proportionally to the number of units authorized by the permit.

For land areas not covered by building permits, field representatives are deployed to perform road canvases that catalog the beginning of new construction projects.The field representatives contact building ownersto track construction progress. Interviews with the building owner are conducted each month until the completion or abandonment of the project. The data collected in these interviews is used to obtain national and regional estimates of housing starts, completions, and sales.

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How Survey of Construction Data is Used

Governmental agencies and private organizations use this data to monitor the health of the economy, pursue housing programs, and forecast housing and ancillary demand by region.

Several major governmental institutions use Survey of Construction data for various reasons, including:

  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis developsestimates for national income and Gross Domestic Productaccounts as part of its reporting requirements.
  • The Federal Reserve Boardinterprets theestimates as indicators of the health of the US economy from the construction and related sectorsto set policy and interest rates.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Developmentevaluates ongoing and future housing programs.
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Non-governmental organizations also have a stake in the data:

  • Financial institutions forecast mortgage demand and pricing to develop lending programs and investment portfolios.
  • Manufacturersplan production schedules, forecast demand, and establish market share indicators for goods and services to the construction, housing, and related sectors.
  • Insurance companiesusethe estimates to adjust insurance policy rates and set replacement costs for housing and construction structures.

About SBB Research Group

Founded in 2010, SBB Research Group LLC is a Chicago-based investment management firm that continually strives to optimize the protection and growth of investor capital. Led by applied mathematician Sam Barnett, PhD, and Matt Aven, an experienced professional in economics and computer science, the company specializes in creating bespoke funds seeking both stability and long-term results through a systematic investment approach.

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