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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Decline but Permits Improve
by Tom Moeller  June 18, 2019

Housing starts eased 0.9% (-4.7% y/y) during May to 1.269 million (SAAR) from 1.281 million in April, revised from 1.235 million. Starts in March also were revised up to 1.199 million from 1.168 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 1.240 million starts during May.

Starts of single-family homes fell 6.4% (-12.5% y/y) to 820,000 last month from 876,000 in April, revised from 854,000. Multi-family housing starts rose 10.9% (13.7% y/y) to 449,000 units from 405,000, revised from 381,000. It was the highest level since January 2018.

The decline in housing starts last month reflected mixed performance across the country. In the Northeast, starts fell by nearly one-half (-32.4% y/y) to 73,000 units. The decline reversed most of April's sharp increase. Starts in the Midwest declined 8.0% to 160,000 and were one-third lower y/y. In the West, starts eased 2.4% (-0.6% y/y) to 332,000 after a 3.3% rise. Working 11.2% higher (+8.1% y/y) to 704,000 were housing starts in the South. It was the highest level since January and continued the expansion's upward trend

Building permits rose 0.3% last month (-0.5% y/y) to 1.294 million and repeated the prior month's gain. Permits to build a single-family home rose 3.7% (-3.3% y/y) to 815,000, but have remained in a downtrend since early last year. Multi-family building permits fell 5.0% (+4.6% y/y) to 479,000.

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) May Apr Mar May Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Total 1,269 1,281 1,199 -4.7 1,250 1,209 1,178
  Single-Family 820 876 833 -12.5 873 852 786
  Multi-Family 449 405 366 13.7 377 357 392
Starts By Region
  Northeast 73 134 83 -32.4 111 111 116
  Midwest 160 174 132 -33.1 171 180 185
  South 704 633 655 8.1 631 603 585
  West 332 340 329 -0.6 336 314 292
Building Permits 1,294 1,290 1,288 -0.5 1,313 1,286 1,206
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