According to the CIA World Factbook’s estimates for GDP by country and region, the E.U. was the world’s largest economy in 2011, besting the U.S. by $350 billion. So it’s not surprising that the world seems fixated on the ongoing debt crisis occurring in some of the E.U.’s member states. But it’s instructive to look at the European countries at the heart of the crisis to see how they compare to the U.S. and to housing.

Greece’s estimated GDP in 2011 was $308 billion, ranking it 41st among countries and regions. For context, nine U.S. metropolitan areas have larger economies. Italy and Spain have larger economies, so pose more risk to the world economy, but they are only slightly larger than the New York MSA’s economy.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, residential construction added 0.4 percent to our real GDP growth in the first quarter of 2012. The size of U.S. residential fixed investment, currently at $349 billion, is significantly larger than the entire economy of Greece. At its peak in 2005, U.S. residential fixed investment reached $775 billion.

Total U.S. industrial employment peaked at 137.8 million jobs in 2007. Construction jobs peaked a year earlier, at 7.7 million, down now to 5.4 million. If we use 2007 to be consistent, not yet recovered construction jobs represent 35 percent of our current unemployment. But housing’s impact on the economy is much larger than residential construction alone.

We’ll forget about Greece if housing’s recovery gains momentum.

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