Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Housing Starts decrease sharply in February

by Calculated Risk on 3/16/2011 08:30:00 AM

Total Housing Starts and Single Family Housing Starts Click on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

Total housing starts were at 479 thousand (SAAR) in February, down 22.5% from the revised January rate of 618 thousand, and barely up from the all time record low in April 2009 of 477 thousand (the lowest level since the Census Bureau began tracking housing starts in 1959).

Single-family starts decreased 11.8% to 375 thousand in February - the lowest level since early 2009.

Total Housing Starts and Single Family Housing StartsThe second graph shows total and single unit starts since 1968. This shows the huge collapse following the housing bubble, and that housing starts have mostly been moving sideways for over two years - with slight ups and downs due to the home buyer tax credit.

Here is the Census Bureau report on housing Permits, Starts and Completions.

Housing Starts:
Privately-owned housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 479,000. This is 22.5 percent (±9.8%) below the revised January estimate of 618,000 and is 20.8 percent (±9.0%) below the February 2010 rate of 605,000.

Single-family housing starts in February were at a rate of 375,000; this is 11.8 percent (±10.0%) below the revised January figure of 425,000. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 96,000.

Building Permits:
Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 517,000. This is 8.2 percent (±3.3%) below the revised January rate of 563,000 and is 20.5 percent (±3.5%) below the February 2010 estimate of 650,000.

Single-family authorizations in February were at a rate of 382,000; this is 9.3 percent (±1.2%) below the revised January figure of 421,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 121,000 in February.
This was well below expectations of 560 thousand starts, and near the record low.

This low level of starts is good news for housing, and I expect starts to stay low until more of the excess inventory of existing homes is absorbed. Note: This is the lowest level for Building permits since the Census Bureau started tracking permits.