House Prices and the Unemployment Rate

Here is a comparison of real house prices and the unemployment rate using the LoanPerformance national house price data (starts in 1976) and Case-Shiller Composite 10 index (starts in 1987). Both indexes are adjusted by CPI less shelter. This is an update to a post earlier this year.

House Prices and Unemployment Rate Click on image for larger graph in new window.

The two previous national declines in real house prices are evident on the graph (early ’80s and early ’90s). The dashed green lines are drawn at the peak of the unemployment rate following the peak in house prices.

In the early ’80s, real house prices declined until the unemployment rate peaked, and then increased sluggishly for a few years. Following the late 1980s housing bubble, real house prices declined for several years after the unemployment rate peaked.

Although there are periods when there is no relationship between the unemployment rate and house prices, this graph suggests that house prices will not bottom (in real terms) until the unemployment rate peaks (or later, especially since the current bubble dwarfs those previous housing bubbles). This also suggests that real house prices are probably 10% or more too high on a national basis.