Estimated Relative Standard Errors in Housing Data

Regarding yesterday’s New Home Starts, an emailer writes: 

You used to discuss the Commerce Dept.’s standard statistical error regularly. In light of that surprising Housing Start number, could you please update that?

Sure thing. I love this sort of data sifting exercise. (I used to do this all the time, but I could actually hear readers falling asleep through my screen).

Let’s go to the Census Department release.

Privately-owned housing starts in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,032,000. This is 8.2 percent (±14.5%)* above the revised March estimate of 954,000, but is 30.6 percent (±6.7%) below the revised April 2007 rate of 1,487,000.

As is so often the case, the devil is in the details:

As far as the April Hosuing Starts go, a monthly change (seasonally adjusted annual rate) was 8.2%, versus an
estimated relative standard error of ±14.5%.  Hence, the monthly change is not statistically significant; that is, it is uncertain whether there was an increase or decrease in Housing Starts from March to April.

As to the 30.6% year over year drop — that is ±6.7% — and therefore is statistically significant.

[UPDATE: Flenerman in comments asks the same question]


And I thought I was the only one who cared about such mathematical trivialities . . .


Manufacturing and Construction Division
U.S. Census Bureau, MAY 16, 2008 AT 8:30 A.M. EDT

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Friday Evening Jazz: Marvin Gaye

Marvin_gaye_in_1973 Last week, while randomly channel surfing, I stumbled across a fantastic PBS documentary in the American Masters series, titled Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On.

It was a terrific review of the wonderful music and troubled life of Marvin Gaye.

Those of you who are less familiar with early Soul and R&B owe it to yourself to learn a bit about Gaye, best known as an artist on the Motown record label in the 1960s and 1970s.

Master_19611984Gaye had a classic R&B voice — described as "edged with grit yet tempered with sweetness." But he was much more than that: He was Motown’s renaissance man: A songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer as well.

AllMusic: "Moving from lean,
powerful R&B to stylish, sophisticated soul to finally arrive at an
intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression, his
work not only redefined soul music as a creative force but also
expanded its impact as an agent for social change."

You can explore Gaye’s work a couple of ways: The one click method is
either a box set or a Best Of. For the big 4 CD box, go with The Master 1961-1984. A less exhaustive approach is Every Great Motown Hit of Marvin Gaye.

Whats_going_on I much prefer the albums over the greatest hits, The self-produced What’s Going On was a landmark effort, described as "a dramatic shift in both content and style that forever altered the face of black music."  A mix of percussion, soul and jazz, it has a remarkably sophisticated and fluid sound. Reviewers have called What’s Going On a conceptual masterpiece.

The long-simmering eroticism implicit in much of Gaye’s work reached its boiling point with 1973′s Let’s Get It On, one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded; a work of intense lust and longing, it became the most commercially successful effort of his career


Top Ten Albums
Lets_get_it_on1971: What’s Going On (#6 U.S.)
1973: Let’s Get It On (#2 U.S.)
1973: Diana & Marvin (#5 UK)
1974: Marvin Gaye Live! (#8 U.S.)
1976: I Want You (#4 U.S.)
1977: Live at the London Palladium (#3 U.S.)
1982: Midnight Love (#7 U.S.; #10 UK)
1994: The Very Best of Marvin Gaye (#3 UK)
2000: Marvin Gaye Love Songs (#8 UK)


Recommended Albums

What’s Going On
Let’s Get It On
The Master 1961-1984 (Box Set)   

• NPR: A Tribute to Marvin Gaye    


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