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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Unexpectedly Fall Sharply in April
by Tom Moeller  May 18, 2021

• Single-family starts decline while multi-family starts improve.

• Building permits edge higher.

Housing starts declined 9.5% (+67.3% y/y) during April 1.569 million units (SAAR) from 1.733 million in March, revised from 1.739 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected April starts of 1.718 million. February starts were revised to 1.447 million from 1.457 million. Earlier figures also were revised.

Starts of single-family homes fell 13.4% (+58.7% y/y) in April to 1.087 million from 1.255 million in March, revised from 1.238 million. Single-family starts during February were revised as well to 1.069 million from 1.074 million. Starts of multi-family units improved 0.8% last month (+90.5% y/y) to 482,000 from 478,000 in March, revised from 501,000. Multi-family starts were revised to 378,000 in February from 383,000.

Building permits rose 0.3% (60.9% y/y) last month to 1.760 million from 1.755 million  in March, revised from 1.766 million. Permits fell to 1.726 million in February, revised from 1.720 million. Permits to build single-family homes declined 3.8% (+70.7% y/y) to 1.149 million and reversed most of the March increase. Permits to build multi-family homes improved 8.9% (45.1% y/y) to 611,000 after falling for two straight months.

By region, housing starts in the Northeast rose 6.2% (244.0% y/y) to 172,000 after rising 48.6% in March. In the Midwest, starts weakened 34.8% (+40.9% y/y) to 193,000 after more-than-doubling in March. Housing starts in the South fell 11.5% (+41.3% y/y) to 804,000 following a 17.8% rise in March. In the West, starts improved 9.0% (119.8% y/y) to 400,000 after falling 14.8% during March.

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) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total  1,569 1,733 1,447 67.3 1,397 1,292 1,247
  Single-Family 1,087 1,255 1,069 58.7 1,004 889 871
  Multi-Family 482 478 378 90.5 393 403 376
Starts By Region
  Northeast 172 162 109 244.0 113 115 111
  Midwest 193 296 136 40.9 193 169 170
  South 804 908 771 41.3 743 687 630
  West 400 367 431 119.8 347 321 336
Building Permits 1,760 1,755 1,726 60.9 1,479 1,385 1,329
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