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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Surge to 12-Year High
by Tom Moeller  September 18, 2019

New residential building activity strengthened last month. Housing starts jumped 12.3% (6.6% y/y) during August to 1.364 million units (AR) from 1.215 million in July, revised from 1.191 million. Starts in June were revised slightly to 1.233 million from 1.241 million.  Housing starts stood at the highest level since June 2007. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 1.250 million starts during August.

Improvement in new building activity was widespread least month. The largest improvement was a nearly one-third surge (14.1% y/y) in multi-family starts which mostly recovered two months of sharp decline. Starts of single-family homes increased 4.4% last month (3.4% y/y) to 919,000 units from 880,000 in July. It was the highest level since January.

By region, starts in the Northeast rose 30.5% (25.3% y/y) to 124,000 units, a four-month high. Starts in the Midwest increased 15.4% (12.3% y/y) to 210,000, the highest level since May of 2018. Starts in the South rose 14.9% (8.1% y/y) to 711,000, the highest level since January. Holding steady m/m at 319,000 (-4.8% y/y) were housing starts in the West.

Building permits increased 7.7% last month (12.0% y/y) to 1.419 million from downwardly revised 1.317 million in July. Permits to build single-family homes rose 4.5% both m/m and y/y to 866,000, the highest level since July of last year. Multi-family building permits surged 13.3% (26.3% y/y) to 553,000, a 17-month high.

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) Aug Jul Jun Aug Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Total 1,364 1,215 1,233 6.6 1,250 1,209 1,178
  Single-Family 919 880 864 3.4 873 852 786
  Multi-Family 445 335 369 14.1 377 357 392
Starts By Region
  Northeast 124 95 111 25.3 111 111 116
  Midwest 210 182 182 12.3 171 180 185
  South 711 619 632 8.1 631 603 585
  West 319 319 308 -4.8 336 314 292
Building Permits 1,419 1,317 1,232 12.0 1,330 1,286 1,207
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