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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Improve Again During October
by Tom Moeller  November 18, 2020

• Single-family home building increases to highest level since April 2007.

• Building permits hold steady.

Housing starts rose 4.9% (14.2% y/y) in October to 1.530 million (SAAR) from 1.459 million in September, revised from 1.415 million. Despite the increase, starts remained 5.4% below their January peak of 1.617 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 1.450 million starts in October.

Starts of single-family homes rose 6.4% last month (29.4% y/y) to 1.179 million from an unrevised 1.108 million in September. The latest level was roughly two-thirds above the April low. Accompanying the increase in single-family starts was steadiness in multi-family starts at 351,000 (-18.2% y/y), revised from 307,000. Starts have been at that level for three months, down 44.1% from the peak this past January.

Building permits were unchanged at a little-revised 1.545 million (2.8% y/y). It remained the highest level of permits since March 2007. Permits to build single-family homes rose 0.6% (20.6% y/y) to 1.120 million following five months of strong increase. Permits to build multi-family homes eased 1.6% (-26.0% y/y) to 425,000 after falling 1.4% in September.

By region, housing starts in the Northeast weakened by 38.6% (-32.8% y/y) to 78,000, the lowest level since May. In the South, starts rose 12.9% (24.3% y/y) to 859,000 following September's 8.1% rise. In the West, starts improved 4.2% (5.4% y/y) to 374,000, the highest level since February. Housing starts in the Midwest gained 3.3% (23.0% y/y) to 219,000.

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

The Federal Reserve's New Framework: Context and Consequences from Fed Vice Chair Richard H. Clarida can be found here.

Housing Starts (000s, SAAR) Oct Sep Aug Oct Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Total 1,530 1,459 1,373 14.2 1,295 1,248 1,207
  Single-Family 1,179 1,108 1,022 29.4 893 872 851
  Multi-Family 351 351 351 -18.2 403 376 356
Starts By Region
  Northeast 78 127 86 -32.8 115 111 112
  Midwest 219 212 241 23.0 170 170 180
  South 859 761 704 24.3 689 630 602
  West 374 359 342 5.4 322 337 314
Building Permits 1,545 1,545 1,476 2.8 1,386 1,329 1,285
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