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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Unexpectedly Decline in September
by Tom Moeller  October 19, 2021

• Single-family starts hold steady but multi-family weakens.

• Regional changes are mixed.

• Building permits decline sharply.

Housing starts fell 1.6% during September (+7.4% y/y) to 1.555 million (SAAR) from 1.580 million in August, revised from 1.615 million. Starts have declined from 1.725 million in March. A September increase to 1.620 million starts was expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

The decline in starts overall in September was due entirely to a 5.0% drop (+38.5% y/y) in multi-family starts to 475,000, reversing half of the August rise. Starts of single-family homes held steady in September at 1.080 million (-2.3% y/y), revised from 1.076 million. Single-family starts fell 2.9% in August and 4.2% in July. Starts last month were 13.9% below the March high.

Building permits fell 7.7% to 1.589 million in September (0.0% y/y) from 1.721 million in August, revised from 1.728 million. Permits to build single-family homes eased 0.9% (-7.1% y/y) to 1.041 million, the fifth decline in six months. Permits to build multi-family homes fell 18.3% (17.1% y/y) in September to 548,000, a decline which reversed all of an outsized August increase.

By region, housing starts fell 27.3% (-4.8% y/y) in the Northeast to 120,000 following a 139.1% August increase. Starts in the South were down 6.3% last month to 835,000 (+9.4% y/y) following a 1.0% decline. Offsetting these shortfalls was a 6.9% gain (3.3% y/y) in the Midwest to 217,000 following a 10.9% increase. Starts in the West surged 19.3% (9.7% y/y) to 383,000 after falling 21.7% in August and 7.0% in July.

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) Sep Aug Jul Sep Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total 1,555 1,580 1,562 7.4 1,397 1,292 1,247
  Single-Family 1,080 1,080 1,112 -2.3 1,004 889 871
  Multi-Family 475 500 450 38.5 393 403 376
Starts By Region
  Northeast 120 165 69 -4.8 113 115 111
  Midwest 217 203 183 3.3 193 169 170
  South 835 891 900 9.4 743 687 630
  West 383 321 410 9.7 347 321 336
Building Permits 1,589 1,721 1,630 0.0 1,479 1,385 1,329
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