Even as the housing market worsens, the industry continues to serve us the same old sorts of figures. Rather than confirming what we already know, I wish they'd show a bit more imagination and provide us with information that might actually be useful.

If the Realtors, the Department of Commerce, or the National Association of Home Builders put more effort into the types of numbers they released, investors would be better able to judge how soon the likes ofCentex (NYSE:CTX), Pulte (NYSE:PHM), Lennar (NYSE:LEN),Hovnanian (NYSE:HOV), and Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) might emerge from intensive care.

For example, Wednesday's release by the National Association of Realtors discussed the sales level of "existing homes" for October. As opposed to what -- nonexistent homes? (The release actually refers to previously owned homes.)

The Realtors also told us that sales of previously owned homes dipped 1.2% from September. But that month-to-month metric really doesn't matter much, especially when compared to the 20.7% drop year over year. The Realtors also mentioned a 5.1% year-over-year slide in the median price of existing homes sold in October.

The information currently provided isn't inappropriate -- just incomplete. Imagine how valuable those figures would be if we could combine them with data, broken down by region, on how long those houses spent on the market, or the variance between their asking price and final sales price. The Realtors have all that information readily on hand, and those metrics would better help us assess whether each housing region was waking up, or still comatose.

Wednesday's release also noted that the inventory of unsold homes had shimmied up 1.9% sequentially, to a bloated 4.45 million units nationwide. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported that factory orders for big-ticket manufactured items fell 0.4% in the month. Combine that with rising energy prices, and this Fool estimates that the builders won't be leaving the ICU anytime soon.

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor David Lee Smith notes that his street is now down to one lonely For Sale sign. He doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned, but he does welcome your comments. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy needs 3 ccs of transparency, stat!