The U.S. housing market weakened again in September as the effect of the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes bit increasingly hard. The number of housing starts fell by 8.1% on the month to 1.4 million, reversing a surprise increase in August. They're now down 7.7% on the year. The slowdown has been particularly acute in the West, where the boom was most pronounced. Single-family housing starts are now down 30% from a year earlier.
Mortgage demand, which has suffered four straight months of declines, fell last week to the lowest level since 1997, as interest rates continued to rise. Homebuyers’ demand for mortgages dropped 4% for the week and was 38% lower than the same week one year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Applications to refinance a home loan fell 7% compared with the previous week. Demand was 86% lower than the same week one year ago.
Oregon recorded a small decline in employment in September, the first time the state has shed jobs in the past 12 months. Statewide employment declined by 600 jobs last month, according to the Oregon Employment Department. That’s a minimal decline in a state of 2.2 million workers and within the margin that frequently disappears when economists revise their monthly figures. Still, it suggests that the pace of Oregon job growth might finally be easing up. The state’s unemployment rate was 3.8% in September, near a historic low but up slightly from 3.7% the prior month.