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Economy in Brief

U.S. Housing Starts Are Unexpectedly Strong in December
by Tom Moeller  January 19, 2022

• Multi-family starts increase while single-family building eases.

• Regional changes are mixed.

• Building permits strengthen.

Housing starts rose 1.4% (2.5% y/y) during December to 1.702 million units (SAAR) from 1.678 million in November, revised from 1.679 million. They reached the highest level since March of 2021. During all of last year, 1.598 million units were started, up 14.4% from 1.397 million in 2020 and the most since 2006. A December level of 1.660 million starts had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

The rise in starts overall in December reflected a 10.6% gain (53.2% y/y) in multi-family starts to 530,000, the highest level since February 2020. During all of 2021, multi-family starts rose 20.0% to 472,000. Starts of single-family units declined 2.3% in December (-10.9% y/y) to 1.172 million, but for the whole year, single-family starts rose 12.3% to 1.127 million.

Building permits increased 9.1% (6.5% y/y) to 1.873 million from 1.717 million in November. It was the highest level of permits since January 2021. During all of 2021, permits rose 15.8% to 1.713 million. Permits to build single-family homes gained 2.0% in December (-8.5% y/y) to 1.128 million. Permits to build multi-family homes rose 21.9% (41.9% y/y) in December to 745,000.

By region, housing starts in the Northeast rose 20.2% (0.7% y/y) in December to 137,000. Starts in the Midwest increased 36.5% (17.1% y/y) to 288,000. Working lower were housing starts in the South by 1.9% (+9.3% y/y) to 915,000. Starts in the West fell 13.8% (-18.1% y/y) to 362,000.

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 % 2021 2020 2019
Total 1,702 1,678 1,552 2.5 1,598 1,397 1,292
  Single-Family 1,172 1,199 1,074 -10.9 1,127 1,004 889
  Multi-Family 530 479 478 53.2 472 393 403
Starts By Region
  Northeast 137 114 114 0.7 137 113 115
  Midwest 288 211 213 17.1 214 193 169
  South 915 933 814 9.3 849 743 687
  West 362 420 411 -18.1 398 347 321
Building Permits 1,873 1,717 1,653 6.5 1,713 1,479 1,385
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