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Economy in Brief

Housing Starts Rebound in February, But Permits Fall
by Sandy Batten  March 16, 2016

Housing starts jumped up 5.2% (30.9% y/y) in February to 1.178 million units at an annual rate. There were also upward revisions to both December and January figures, months in which starts had fallen. The February reading exceeded the 1.150 million expectation from the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

Single-family starts led the February increase, rising 7.2% m/m (37.0% y/y) to 822,000 units (AR) after having declined in both January and December. This is the highest level of single-family starts since November 2007. In contrast, multi-family starts only edged up 0.8% m/m (18.7% y/y) to 356,000 units in February, reflecting weakness in starts of 2-4 unit structures, following a sharp 9.5% m/m drop in January.

By region, starts plummeted in the Northeast, plunging 51.3% m/m to 73,000 units (AR), the lowest level since last February. Starts rose in each of the other three regions. They jumped 19.9% m/m in the Midwest to 181,000 units (AR), the first increase in four months. Starts in the South rose 7.1% m/m to 615,000 units (AR), following two consecutive monthly declines. And in the West, starts jumped 26.1% m/m to 309,000 units (AR), their largest monthly increase since April 2015.

Building permits in February did not exhibit the same rebound as did starts. Permits slumped 3.1% m/m to 1.167 million (AR) from 1.204 million in January. Permits have not risen since last November. However, compared to a year ago, permits were still up 6.3%. The February decline was isolated in multi-family permits, which slumped 8.4% m/m to 436,000. Single-family permits edged up 0.4% m/m to 731,000.

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) Feb Jan Dec Feb Y/Y % 2015 2014 2013
Total 1,178 1,120 1,159 30.9 1,107 1,001 928
 Single-Family 822 767 769 37.0 713 648 618
 Multi-Family 356 353 390 18.7 395 356 307
Starts By Region
 Northeast 73 150 155 58.7 136 110 97
 Midwest 181 151 165 77.5 151 163 150
 South 615 574 588 20.8 555 496 464
 West 309 245 251 27.2 265 235 215
Building Permits 1,167 1,204 1,204 6.3 1,164 1,052 991
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