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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Surge in March to Highest Level Since June 2006
by Tom Moeller  April 16, 2021

• Starts rebound after harsh winter weather limited building activity.

• Single-family & multi-family starts rise sharply.

• Building permits increase moderately.

Better weather and low interest rates boosted housing last month. Housing starts jumped 19.4% (37.0% y/y) during March to 1.739 million units (SAAR) after falling 11.3% in February to 1.457 million, revised from 1.421 million. Starts in January eased 1.7% to 1.642 million, revised from 1.584 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 1.610 million starts in March.

Starts of single-family homes jumped 15.3% in March (40.7% y/y) to 1.238 million from 1.074 million in February, revised from 1.040 million. Starts of multi-family units surged 30.8% last month (28.8% y/y) to 501,000 from 383,000, revised from 381,000.

Building permits improved 2.7% (30.2% y/y) to 1.766 million from 1.720 million in February, revised from 1.682 million. That reversed part of the February decline. Permits to build single-family homes rose 4.6% (33.6% y/y) to 1.199 million after falling 9.8% in February. Permits to build multi-family homes eased 1.2% (+20.1% y/y) to 567,000 after a 6.8% February decline.

By region, housing starts in the Northeast jumped by roughly two-thirds and more than doubled y/y to 182,000 after falling 46.1% in February. In the Midwest, starts surged 122.8% (87.0% y/y) to 303,000, the highest level since February 2006. Housing starts in the South rose 13.5% (24.0% y/y) to 874,000 following February's 6.2% decline. In the West, starts fell 13.6% (+19.5% y/y) to 380,000 after rising 8.9% during February.

The housing starts and permits figures can be found in Haver's USECON database. The expectations figure is contained in the AS1REPNA database.

Housing Starts (000s, SAAR) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total 1,739 1,457 1,642 37.0 1,395 1,295 1,248
  Single-Family 1,238 1,074 1,152 40.7 1,000 893 872
  Multi-Family 501 383 490 28.8 396 403 376
Starts By Region
  Northeast 182 111 206 116.7 113 115 111
  Midwest 303 136 211 87.0 193 170 170
  South 874 770 821 24.0 741 689 630
  West 380 440 404 19.5 348 322 337
Building Permits 1,766 1,720 1,886 30.2 1,438 1,386 1,329
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