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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts & Building Permits Ease in February
by Tom Moeller  March 18, 2020

Housing starts fell 1.5% (+39.2% y/y) during February to 1.599 million units (SAAR) from 1.624 million in January, revised from 1.567 million. Starts in December were revised down to 1.601 million from 1.626 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 1.500 million starts.

Starts of single-family starts increased 6.7% (35.4% y/y) to 1.072 million, a new high for the economic expansion. This m/m strength was offset last month, however, by a 14.9% decline (+47.6% y/y) in multi-family starts to 527,000.

By region, last month's weakness in starts was led by a 41.4% decline (+41.6% y/y) in the Northeast to 126,000. It reversed the prior month's 51.4% jump. Starts in the West weakened by 18.2% (+49.0% y/y) to 374,000 and also more than reversed January's increase. Offsetting these declines was a 16.7% (32.1% y/y) to 210,000 starts in the Midwest. It made up most of the prior month's decline. In the South, starts increased 15.2% (36.8%y/y) to 889,000, the highest level since September 2006.

Building permits fell 5.5% (+13.8% y/y) to 1.464 million units from 1.550 million in January. Permits to build single-family homes increased 1.7% (+23.3% y/y) to 1.004 million, the highest level since May 2007, but the gain was countered by an 18.3% decline (-2.7% y/y) in multi-family permits to 460,000.

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) Feb Jan Dec Feb Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Total 1,599 1,624 1,601 39.2 1,298 1,250 1,209
  Single-Family 1,072 1,005 1,057 35.4 894 873 852
  Multi-Family 527 619 544 47.6 404 377 357
Starts By Region
  Northeast 126 215 142 41.6 116 111 111
  Midwest 210 180 238 32.1 170 171 181
  South 889 772 807 36.8 689 631 603
  West 374 457 414 49.0 323 337 314
Building Permits 1,464 1,550 1,420 13.8 1,464 1,330 1,286
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