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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Rebounded in August
by Sandy Batten  September 21, 2021

• Single-family starts fell while multi-family starts rose.

• Starts up in three of four major regions; only decline in West.

• Building permits rose for second month.

Housing starts rebounded in August, rising 3.9% m/m (17.4% y/y) to 1.615 million units at an annual rate. Starts in July were revised up to 1.554 million from 1.534 million. The August rebound was much larger than expected by the Action Economics Forecast Survey, which looked for 1.545 million starts.

The August rebound was due entirely to a rise in multi-family starts. Starts of single-family homes fell 2.8% m/m (+5.2% y/y) to 1.076 million from 1.107 million in July, revised down slightly from 1.111 million. Starts of multi-family units jumped up 20.6% m/m (+52.7% y/y) to 539,000 in August from 447,000 in July, revised up from 423,000.

Building permits rose 6.0% m/m (13.5% y/y) in August to 1.728 million, their second consecutive gain, from 1.630 million in July, revised down slightly from 1.635 million. Permits to build single-family homes edged up 0.6% m/m (-0.1% y/y) to 1.054 million, their first monthly increase in five months. Permits to build multi-family homes jumped 15.8% m/m (44.3% y/y) in August to 674,000 on top of a 10.2% monthly gain in July.

By region, housing starts rebounded strongly in the Northeast (+167.2% m/m), rose in the Midwest (+11.4% m/m) and edged up in the South (+1.4% m/m). There was no obvious adverse impact from Hurricane Ida in the South though the storm may have been too late in the month to impact August data. So, there may yet be some effect in September. By contrast, starts plummeted 21.1% m/m in the West in August. Compared to a year ago, starts in August were higher in the Northeast and the South, but lower in the Midwest and the West.

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) Aug Jul Jun Aug Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total 1,615 1,554 1,657 17.4 1,397 1,292 1,247
  Single-Family 1,076 1,107 1,161 5.2 1,004 889 871
  Multi-Family 539 447 496 52.7 393 403 376
Starts By Region
  Northeast 179 67 147 105.7 113 115 111
  Midwest 206 185 198 -14.5 193 169 170
  South 912 899 871 29.2 743 687 630
  West 318 403 441 -7.0 347 321 336
Building Permits 1,728 1,630 1,594 13.5 1,479 1,385 1,329
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