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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Firm During November
by Tom Moeller  December 17, 2020

• Total starts increase to nine-month high.

• Single-family housing starts improve to highest level since April 2007.

• Building permits strengthen.

Home building remains notably robust, spurred by record low interest rates. Housing starts improved 1.2% (12.8% y/y) in November to 1.547 million (SAAR) from 1.528 million in October, revised from 1.530 million. Despite the increase, starts remained 2.5% below their January peak of 1.617 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 1.530 million starts in November.

Starts of single-family homes edged 0.4% higher last month (27.1% y/y) to 1.186 million from 1.181 million in October, revised from 1.179 million. The latest level was roughly three-quarters above the April low. A 4.0% increase (-17.6% y/y) in multi-family starts to 361,000 from 347,000 in October, revised from 351,000, accompanied the rise. Multi-family starts have been near that level for five months, down 42.5% versus the peak this past January.

Building permits rose 6.2% (8.5% y/y) to 1.639 million in November from 1.544 million, revised from 1.545 during October. It was the highest level of permits since September 2006. Permits to build single-family homes rose 1.3% (22.2% y/y) to 1.143 million following six consecutive months of increase. Permits to build multi-family homes strengthened 19.2% (-13.7% y/y) to 496,000 after falling for three straight months.

By region, housing starts in the Northeast rebounded 58.8% (27.4% y/y) to 135,000 and recovered October's decline. In the West, starts improved 8.2% (15.3% y/y) to 407,000, the highest level since January. In the South, starts eased 6.0% (+9.0% y/y) to 809,000 following October's 14.3% rise. Housing starts in the Midwest fell 4.9% (+15.3% y/y) to 196,000 following declines in three of the prior four months.

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) Nov Oct Sep Nov Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Total 1,547 1,528 1,437 12.8 1,295 1,248 1,207
  Single-Family 1,186 1,181 1,097 27.1 893 872 851
  Multi-Family 361 347 340 -17.6 403 376 356
Starts By Region
  Northeast 135 85 124 27.4 115 111 112
  Midwest 196 206 209 15.3 170 170 180
  South 809 861 753 9.0 689 630 602
  West 407 376 351 15.3 322 337 314
Building Permits 1,639 1,544 1,545 8.5 1,386 1,329 1,285
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