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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Surge to 13-Year High
by Tom Moeller  January 17, 2020

Fueled by low interest rates and a strong job market, new home building strengthened during December. Housing starts jumped 16.9% (40.8% y/y) to 1.608 million (AR) from November's 1.375 million, revised from 1.365 million. It was the highest level of starts since December 2006. A level of 1.39 million had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

The rise in starts last month was powered by a 29.8% surge (68.6% y/y) in multi-family starts to 553,000, the highest level since December 1986. Single-family starts also were strong and posted an 11.2% increase (29.6% y/y) to 1.055 million, the highest level since June 2007.

Building permits declined 3.9% (+5.8% y/y) 1.416 million. Permits to build single-family homes eased 0.5% (+10.8% y/y) to 916,000 while multi-family permits declined 9.6% (-2.3% y/y) to 500,000.

By region, housing starts rose by roughly one-third (85.4% y/y) to 254,000 in the Midwest. Starts also were strong in the Northeast where they posted a one-quarter increase (18.8% y/y) to 133,000. In the West, housing starts rose 19.8% (72.7% y/y) to 411,000 and in the South, housing starts rose 9.3% (23.7% y/y) to 810,000.

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

The Outlook for Housing from Fed Governor Michelle W. Bowman can be found here.

Housing Starts (000s, SAAR) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Total 1,608 1,375 1,340 40.8 1,298 1,250 1,209
  Single-Family 1,055 949 914 29.6 894 873 852
  Multi-Family 553 426 426 68.6 404 377 357
Starts By Region
  Northeast 133 106 115 18.8 115 111 111
  Midwest 254 185 179 85.4 173 171 181
  South 810 741 692 23.7 689 631 603
  West 411 343 354 72.7 321 337 314
Building Permits 1,416 1,474 1,461 5.8 1,350 1,330 1,286
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