Homebuilders broke ground at an annual rate of 1.2 million new homes in December, an increase of 11.3% over November, beating economists expectations.

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Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The news, along with recent surveys showing higher homebuilder confidence, solidifies the narrative that homebuilders are finally ready to start producing in earnest again, more than 10 years after the peak of the mid-aughts housing bubble.

Trulia economist Ralph McLaughlin points out in a research note that when controlling for the number of households in the U.S., housing construction remains 38% below its long-run average. That means there is plenty of room for the industry to continue to recover.

Why it matters: At it's peak, the housing industry can contribute upwards of 18% to overall GDP. And home construction jobs are the sort of middle-skilled, middle-class employment that the U.S. desperately lacking. A steep increase in housing construction activity could be a huge boon for the economy in 2017.

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Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 32,471,119 — Total deaths: 987,593 — Total recoveries: 22,374,557Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 7,032,524 — Total deaths: 203,657 — Total recoveries: 2,727,335 — Total tests: 99,483,712Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.
Mike Allen, author of AM
9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden pushes unity message in new TV wave

A fresh Joe Biden ad, "New Start," signals an effort by his campaign to make unity a central theme, underscoring a new passage in his stump speech that says he won't be a president just for Democrats but for all Americans.

What he's saying: The ad — which began Friday night, and is a follow-up to "Fresh Start" — draws from a Biden speech earlier in the week in Manitowoc, Wisconsin:

Trump prepares to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court replacement

Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Photo: Matt Cashore/Notre Dame University via Reuters

President Trump is preparing to nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, a favorite of both the social conservative base and Republican elected officials, to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Barrett would push the already conservative court further and harder to the right, for decades to come, on the most important issues in American politics — from abortion to the limits of presidential power. If confirmed, she would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court.

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