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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Suffer Another Setback
by Tom Moeller  March 16, 2011

Total housing starts slumped by 22.5% during February versus January to the lowest level of the economic recovery. The decline to 479,000 starts was from an upwardly revised 618,000, initially reported as 596,000. The latest figure disappointed Consensus expectations for 570,000 starts according to Action Economics. 

The February decline in starts reflected a 46.1% m/m drop in multi-family to 104,000. The shortfall reversed virtually all of the January increase. Starts of 2-4 unit structures did reverse all of the January gain (-50.0% y/y) while starts of larger units fell back to near December's level of 95,000 (+54.8% y/y). Starts of single-family homes fell by 11.8% from January to 375,000, the lowest level since March, 2009. Starts in the Northeast fell more than one-third m/m (-23.6% y/y) while starts in the Midwest dropped by nearly one-half (-45.7% y/y). Starts in the West fell more than one-quarter to 85,000 (-40.6% y/y) while starts in the South fell 6.3% (-1.1% y/y).

Building permits declined 8.2% m/m (-20.5% y/y), roughly the same as during January. Permits for single-family units fell 9.3% (-27.0% y/y) while multi-family permits fell by 4.9% (+6.3% y/y).

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

Housing Starts (000s, SAAR) Feb Jan Dec Feb Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total 479 618 522 -20.8 585 554 900
 Single-Family 375 425 419 -28.8 471 442 616
 Multi-Family 104 193 103 33.3 115 112 284
Starts By Region
 Northeast 55 88 57 -23.6 72 61 120
 Midwest 57 111 66 -45.7 98 95 134
 South 282 301 266 -1.1 296 281 451
 West 85 118 133 -40.6 121 117 195
Building Permits 517 563 627 -20.5 595 583 896
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