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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Rise Again in December
by Tom Moeller  January 21, 2021

• Total starts reach highest level since September 2006.

• Single-family housing starts continue to surge.

• Building permits strengthen.

Record low interest rates continue to strengthen new home building. Housing starts increased 5.8% (5.2% y/y) during December to 1.669 million (AR) from 1.578 million in November, revised from 1.547 million. October's level was revised to 1.530 million from 1.528 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected 1.560 million starts in December.

Starts of single-family homes increased 12.0% (27.8% y/y) to 1.338 million from 1.195 in November, revised from 1.186 million. Offsetting this increase was a 13.6% decline (-38.7% y/y) in multi-family starts to 331,000 from 383,000 in November, revised from 361,000.

Building permits rose 4.5% (17.3% y/y) to 1.709 million last month after November's rise to 1.635 million, revised from 1.639 million. It was the highest level of permits since August 2006. Permits to build single-family homes rose 7.8% (30.4% y/y) to 1.226 million following a 0.8% November gain. Permits to build multi-family homes eased 3.0% (-6.6% y/y) to 483,000 after rising 19.7% in November to 498,000.

By region, housing starts in the Northeast declined 34.8% (-24.1% y/y) to 107,000 and reversed most of November's increase. In the West, starts improved 10.2% (10.0% y/y) to 453,000, up for the sixth straight month. In the South, starts improved 5.5% (7.8% y/y) to 858,000 following November's 4.6% decline. Housing starts in the Midwest jumped 32.1% (5.5% y/y) to 251,000 following a 9.1% November decline.

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) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total 1,669 1,578 1,530 5.2 1,397 1,295 1,248
  Single-Family 1,338 1,195 1,179 27.8 1,062 893 872
  Multi-Family 331 383 351 -38.7 395 403 376
Starts By Region
  Northeast 107 164 84 -24.1 113 115 111
  Midwest 251 190 209 5.5 194 170 170
  South 858 813 852 7.8 743 689 630
  West 453 411 385 10.0 348 322 337
Building Permits 1,709 1,635 1,544 17.3 1,439 1,386 1,329
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