Building permits (charts) were issued in August
at a 3.2 percent higher rate than in July, but housing starts (chart) fell even further
than expected according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Starts of privately owned housing fell
5.0 percent below the July figure of 601,000 (revised from the original
estimate of 603,000) to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 571,000. The Census Bureau said this was the largest
drop since April. According to Reuters,
economists they polled had forecast that starts would fall, but only to a
590,000 unit rate. The August rate is 5.8 percent below the rate of 606,000 one
year earlier and, according to Reuters, housing starts are now at less than one
third of their peak during the housing boom.
The annual rate of single-family starts was down 1.4 percent from July
to 417,000. The annual rate for buildings
with five or more units was 148,000.
Data on permits was more encouraging for prospects of future construction
activity. Permits were issued at a
seasonally adjusted annual rate of 620,000 units during the month compared to an
upwardly revised number of 601,000 units in July. The July number was originally pegged at 597,000
units. The August figure was 7.8 percent
above the estimate of 575,000 units in August 2010. This was especially good news as economists
had expected permits to fall to a 590,000 unit pace. Single family authorizations constituted
413,000 of the permits, an increase of 2.5 percent from July. Authorizations for buildings with five or
more units were at the rate of 178,000.
Housing completions (chart) were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 623,000,
2.7 percent below the revised July number of 640,000 and up from the rate of
607,000 one year earlier.
On a regional basis, single family starts were down in every region but the South
but multiple family starts kept overall numbers slightly positive in both the
West and Midwest. The Northeast stood
out with its numbers. Overall starts
were down 29.1 percent from July and single family starts were off 14.6
Permitting rose in every region but the South where a drop in multi-family
permits pulled the numbers into slightly negative territory. Single family permits fell 10.8 percent since
July in the Northeast.
At the end of August there were 85,300 permits nationwide that had been
issued but where construction had not started, an increase of 6.4 percent since
July. Multiple family permits represent
37,900 of the backlog and single family permits outstanding number 45,100