Sales of new single-family homes dropped in June, falling 1.0% on a monthly basis to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 312,000, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

However, the report’s news wasn’t all bad. Year-over-year, June’s sales number reflected a gain of 1.6%. Also, both the median and average sales prices of new homes sold showed improvements, rising to $235,200 and $269,000, respectively.

Perhaps most promising was the news of inventory, which dropped 1.8% from May and a staggering 22.3% from a year ago to hit a new record low. The 164,000 homes left on the market represent a 6.3-month supply.

And that, says Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, is good news for everyone. "In the big-picture scheme of things, what makes GDP is not new-home sales," he said in a statement regarding the numbers today. "Starts and construction power GDP, and the ongoing drop in the number of homes for sale is a leading indicator that a turnaround is coming—but not today."

Given that inventory now stands 47,000 units lower than it did in June 2010, even if sales rates, starts, and permits over the next year stay at the same low levels we’ve seen in the past 12 months, Newport says, standing inventory would fall to 117,000. "In purely mathematical terms, something has to give, and construction/starts will be the item that pops up, and surge in percentage terms once it does."

Certainly we’re not out of the woods yet. More inventory will need to clear and sales will need to firm. But while "this is not the turn in housing," Newport said, "the drivers are finally reaching for the turn signal."

Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Greenville, SC.