We all know the Australian new housing market is pretty poor at the moment, but just how bad?

Well, the extent of the slump in new homes and units can be seen from an obscure but interesting statistic slipped out yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In a series looking at quarterly production of a group of manufacturing items (beer, gas, electricity, bricks, pre-mixed concrete and Portland cement) the ABS said that 359 million bricks were produced in the March quarter.

That’s the lowest number since the March quarter of last year. Now judging by the figures March is the low quarter in a year but if you forget about the first three months of 2006, the latest figure is the lowest since the series started in September 2001!

Peak quarterly output came in the three months to September 2003 when 465 million bricks were produced, so the March quarter was down more than 20 per cent.

And if you’re interested — 427 megalitres of beer were produced in the March quarter of this year, down on the 438 million megalitres of the March quarter of 2006. But that probably has as much to do with the weather as actual demand.