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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Rise in May
by Tom Moeller  June 16, 2021

• Increase is smaller-than-expected.

• Single-family and multi-family starts improve modestly.

• Building permits decline.

Housing starts increased 3.6% (50.3% y/y) during May to 1.572 million units (SAAR) from 1.517 million in April, revised from 1.569 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected May starts of 1.623 million. March housing starts were revised to 1.725 million from 1.733 million.

Starts of single-family homes rose 4.2% (49.8% y/y) in May to 1.098 million from 1.054 million in April, revised from 1.087 million. Starts in March were unrevised at 1.255 million. Starts of multi-family units improved 2.4% last month (51.4% y/y) to 474,000 from 463,000 in April, revised from 482,000.

Building permits declined 3.0% (+34.9% y/y) last month to 1.681 million from 1.733 million in April, revised from 1.760 million. Permits in March fell 1.3% to 1.733 million, revised from 1.755 million. Permits to build single-family homes declined 1.6% (+50.1% y/y) to 1.130 million, down for the second straight month. Permits to build multi-family homes weakened 5.8% (+11.8% y/y) to 551,000, the lowest level since December.

By region, housing starts in the Northeast fell 22.4% (+68.6% y/y to 118,000 after declining 7.9% in April. In the Midwest, starts increased 29.9% (66.0% y/y) to 239,000 after falling 36.1% in April. Housing starts in the South improved 3.8% (59.6% y/y) to 814,000 following a 12.0% decline in April. In the West, starts edged 1.0% higher (24.5% y/y) to 401,000 after improving 4.2% during April.

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) May Apr Mar May Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total 1,572 1,517 1,725 50.3 1,397 1,292 1,247
  Single-Family 1,098 1,054 1,255 49.8 1,004 889 871
  Multi-Family 474 463 470 51.4 393 403 376
Starts By Region
  Northeast 118 152 165 68.6 113 115 111
  Midwest 239 184 288 66.0 193 169 170
  South 814 784 891 59.6 743 687 630
  West 401 397 381 24.5 347 321 336
Building Permits 1,681 1,733 1,755 34.9 1,479 1,385 1,329
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