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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Drop to Five-Month Low as Multi-Family Building Slumps
by Tom Moeller  May 16, 2013

New building activity backpedaled last month following its earlier strength. Total housing starts dropped 16.5% to 853,000 (AR) last month from 1.021M in March, initially reported as 1.036M. Expectations had been for 970,000 starts in the Action Economics survey of economists. A 38.9% m/m plunge in starts of multi-family units to 243,000 led last month's drop. Starts of single-family homes fell 2.1% (+20.8% y/y) to 610,000.

By region, fewer starts in the South led last month's decline with a 27.9% shortfall (+1.8% y/y) to 406,000. Starts in the Northeast fell 12.8% (+3.8% y/y) to 82,000 while starts in the West were off 6.2% (+43.2% y/y) to 212,000. Housing starts in the Midwest rose 10.9% (19.5% y/y) to 153,000.

Building permits jumped 14.3% to 1.017M last month and were up nearly one-third y/y. Permits to build single-family homes rose 3.0% (+27.5% y/y) to 617,000 while permits to build multi-family units surged 37.5% (50.9% y/y) to 400,000.

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) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y% 2012 2011 2010
Total 853 1,021 969 13.1 781 612 586
 Single-Family 610 623 652 20.8 534 434 471
 Multi-Family 243 398 317 -2.4 247 178 114
Starts By Region
 Northeast 82 94 106 3.8 78 68 72
 Midwest 153 138 135 19.5 129 103 97
 South 406 563 505 1.8 400 309 296
 West 212 226 223 43.2 173 132 120
Building Permits 1,017 890 952 35.8 800 624 604
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