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Sector Snap: Homebuilders Sag Amid Weak Job Market

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Shares of homebuilders and their suppliers were down Monday after a KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. analyst said weak job growth this year probably would not be enough to help the housing market shake off excess inventory from foreclosures and vacant units.

KeyBanc analyst Kenneth Zener said the health of the housing market will be closely tied to the labor market this year. Basically, workers need a steady income before they are willing to take on debt to buy a new home, and disappointing job creation hasn't created enough new positions this year to significantly reduce the unemployment rate.

As Zener put it in a note to clients: "no job (equals) no house."

Zener analyzed employment trends in the nation's top 25 markets for homebuilding in April, and found that the jobs market improved, along with the pace of new home building permits. But the growth was tepid.

The top 25 markets gained 262,000 jobs from a year earlier, while 169,000 permits were issued. Year-over-year job growth occurred in 16 of 25 markets, compared with 15 markets six months ago. A year ago, only four markets showed job growth.

Still, the growth won't be enough to soak up the excess housing supply after a wave of foreclosures put empty houses on the market, Zener said.

"Over the next several years, we expect still weak job growth to dilute longer-term demographic demand, as household formations remain tied to job growth," Zener said.

Since 1960, it has taken about 1.2 jobs to be created to support one new housing unit, Zener said. He predicted that housing demand in the next decade will continue to be tied to job growth, but that the new demand will have to absorb 2 million excess vacant units left over from the housing crisis and recession.

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