Working From Home in Big Apartment Buildings, Making Small-Batch Rye

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Apartment construction has made a big comeback over the course of this economic expansion, with more new multifamily units completed in 2017 than in any year since 1989, according to the Census Bureau. But the number of new apartment buildings going up is still way below 1980s and even 1990s levels — because the recent boom in apartment construction has been concentrated in very big buildings.

Working From Home in Big Apartment Buildings, Making Small-Batch Rye

Yes, it’s time for my third annual charts of the year column! This chart, which first ran with a column in June, just after the annual Characteristics of New Housing data was released, is one of my favorites because it so succinctly illustrates the constraints shaping residential development in the U.S. Big new apartment buildings have been going up near downtowns and suburban commercial centers all over the country, while single-family houses are still being constructed on the fringes of metropolitan areas, but existing residential areas where smaller multi-unit buildings would be most appropriate aren’t adding new housing at all. There’s increasing political pressure to do something about this, with Minneapolis abolishing single-family zoning in much of the city and other cities and even states discussing similar measures. We’ll see how much that changes things.

A related topic is how people get to work. The overwhelming majority of Americans do this by driving. But not everybody! The headline news in the column I wrote on the topic in November was that the number of Americans working from home had surpassed the number commuting via public transportation for the first time on record in 2017. But that doesn’t necessarily mean fewer people are taking the bus or train. This is a revised version of one of the charts, showing commuting changes since 2000.

Working From Home in Big Apartment Buildings, Making Small-Batch Rye

What else has changed since 2000? Well, lots of things, but one of them is that the U.S. is now home to lots more wineries, breweries and distilleries than it was then, which I made a few charts about in March. The number of wineries has been rising at a steady pace for a long time. In brewing and distilling, industries that saw a lot of consolidation in the 20th century, the boom has been mostly in the past decade. There are nine times as many breweries as there were in 2008, and eight times as many distilleries. Most are pretty tiny: In June, the average U.S. brewery had 19 employees, the average distillery 17 and the average winery 15.

Working From Home in Big Apartment Buildings, Making Small-Batch Rye

Finally, here’s a chart I made for Businessweek in August on acres burned in wildfires since 1926, updated here with 2018 numbers through Dec. 21.

Working From Home in Big Apartment Buildings, Making Small-Batch Rye

The National Interagency Fire Center, the source of this data, cautions that the pre-1983 numbers aren’t particularly reliable. But they do square with other evidence that wildfires burned far more acres in the U.S. before the 1950s than since. One 2012 study concluded that wildfire incidence in the Western U.S. hit a 3,000-year low in the late 20th century, thanks mainly to more aggressive and effective firefighting efforts. Now wildfires are on the increase again, in part because of climate change but also because all that aggressive and effective firefighting has left tons more fuel to burn.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.