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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Post a Solid Increase
by Tom Moeller  May 16, 2019

Housing starts rose 5.7% during April to 1.235 million units (SAAR) following a March improvement to 1.168 million units, revised from a slight m/m decline. Despite the latest increase, housing starts were 2.5% lower than one year earlier. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 1.215 million starts.

Starts of single-family homes strengthened 6.2% (-4.3% y/y) to 854,000 last month from 804,000 in March, revised from 785,000. Multi-family housing starts rose 4.7% (1.6% y/y) to 381,000 units, the highest level since November.

The increase in housing starts last month reflected mixed performance across the country. In the Northeast, starts surged 84.6% (48.5% y/y) to 144,000 units. The increase reversed sharp declines during the prior two months. In the Midwest, starts also were strong and posted a 42.0% rise (17.0% y/y) to 186,000, a six-month high. Working lower was the level of housing starts in the South. They declined 5.7% (-12.2% y/y) to 581,000, off for the third straight month to the lowest level since September. Housing starts in the West also weakened 5.5% (-7.2% y/y) to 324,000 after rising by roughly one-third m/m during March.

Building permits improved 0.6% last month (-5.0% y/y) to 1.296 million following three straight monthly declines. Permits to build a single-family home fell 4.2% (-9.4% y/y) to 782,000, the lowest level since November 2016. Multi-family building permits recovered 8.9% (2.6% y/y) to 514,000, the highest level since March of last year.

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

The Risk of Returning to the Zero Lower Bound from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is available here.

Housing Starts (000s, SAAR) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Total 1,235 1,168 1,149 -2.5 1,250 1,209 1,178
  Single-Family 854 804 792 -4.3 873 852 786
  Multi-Family 381 364 357 1.6 377 357 392
Starts By Region
  Northeast 144 78 89 48.5 111 111 116
  Midwest 186 131 159 17.0 171 180 185
  South 581 616 650 -12.2 631 603 585
  West 324 343 251 -7.2 336 314 292
Building Permits 1,296 1,288 1,291 -5.0 1,313 1,286 1,206
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