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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts & Building Permits Strengthen
by Tom Moeller  November 19, 2019

The housing market remains on a firm footing. Housing starts increased 3.8% (8.5% y/y) during October to 1.314 million (SAAR) after easing to 1.266 million in September, revised from 1.256 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 1.310 million starts for last month.

Multi-family starts improved 8.6% (9.2% y/y) to 378,000 following a 25.3% drop during September. Single-family starts increased 2.0% in October (8.2% y/y) to 936,000, the fifth consecutive monthly increase.

Starts improved in most regions of the country. Starts in the West rose 17.6% (6.8% y/y) to 361,000. It was the highest level since March 2018. In the Midwest, starts improved 8.7% (-6.4% y/y) to 175,000 and recovered roughly half of September's decline. Starts edged 0.7% higher (15.6% y/y) in the South to 689,000. Starts tumbled 21.9% (-1.1% y/y) in the Northeast to 89,000, the lowest level since May.

A 5.0% rise (14.1% y/y) in building permits to 1.461 million portends further improvement in new construction activity. It was the highest level since May 2007. Permits to build multi-family homes increased 8.2% (26.9% y/y) while single-family permits rose 3.2% (7.4% y/y).

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) Oct Sep Aug Oct Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Total 1,314 1,266 1,375 8.5 1,250 1,209 1,178
  Single-Family 936 918 909 8.2 873 852 786
  Multi-Family 378 348 466 9.2 377 357 392
Starts By Region
  Northeast 89 114 167 -1.1 111 111 116
  Midwest 175 161 190 -6.4 171 181 185
  South 689 684 717 15.6 631 603 585
  West 361 307 301 6.8 337 314 292
Building Permits 1,461 1,391 1,425 14.1 1,330 1,286 1,207
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