New home sales data for January was released this morning at 321k homes. This was down 0.9% from a revised number for December. Many commentators say that this is a sign of some improvement in the housing market, but 321k is still extremely depressed. Below is a chart of new home sales data since 1973 to put the number in context. There are still fewer homes being purchased than in any other period outside of the current housing collapse. Of course, January is a period of heavy seasonal adjustment.
The red line on the chart is the rolling sum of new homes sold over a 10 year period. It shows that over the last 10 years, there have still been more new homes sold than in other periods. Over the last 10 years almost 10 million new homes were sold. Up until the mid 90s, this figure was more like 8 million. In order to normalize the 10 year number, new home sales may stay depressed for a bit longer.