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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Lowest Since 1991
by Tom Moeller June 17, 2008

Housing starts fell slightly more-than-expected last month. The 3.3% m/m decline to 975,000 units (AR) was from a downwardly revised 1,008 units in April. The latest level was the lowest since January 1991 and Consensus expectations had been for 980,000 starts in May.

Single-family starts continued weak and fell 1.0% from April to 674,000, also the lowest since 1991. So far 2Q starts are down at a 25% annual rate from 1Q.

By region the decline in single-family starts was led last month by an 18.0% (-48.7% y/y) drop in the West. Elsewhere in the country, starts rose. In the Northeast single-family starts rose 11.9% (-38.3% y/y) and made up all of the prior month's decline. In the Midwest starts rose 5.7% (-42.8% y/y) to the highest level since January. Finally, single-family starts in the South ticked up just 2.9% (-37.7% y/y) and made up nearly half of the decline in April.

Multi-family starts last month declined 8.0% and reversed half of the April increase.

Building permits slipped 1.3% after a 5.4% rise during April. Single-family permits fell 4.0% to a new low for this cycle.

Inflation and the Size of Government from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is available here

Housing Starts (000s, AR) May April Y/Y 2007 2006 2005
Total 975 1,008 -32.1% 1,344 1,812 2,073
  Single-Family 674 681 -41.2% 1,039 1,474 1,719
  Multi-Family 301 327 3.8% 304 338 354
Building Permits 969 982 -36.3% 1,371 1,842 2,159
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