Housing Starts Edge Down in August, Maintain Robust Pace

The pace of new-home construction edged down slightly in August, but remained at a seasonally adjusted annual rate above 2 million units for the fifth month in a row, according to government figures released recently. The Commerce Department indicated that the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the August housing report was “minimal.”

Total housing starts dipped 1.3 percent for the month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.009 million units, following a downward revision to the July rate. This was 0.8 percent below the pace of a year ago.

The pace of single-family home construction edged up a slight 0.1 percent to 1.709 million units for the month. This was 1.2 percent above the pace of a year ago.

Multifamily housing starts were down 8.5 percent for the month to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 300,000 units. This was 10.7 percent below the pace of a year ago.

Housing starts increased in the West by 13.3 percent, but the three other regions reported declines in new construction activity in August. Total starts in the Northeast dipped 4.1 percent, the Midwest was down 5.2 percent and the South, which had unusually wet weather prior to Katrina, decreased by 6.6 percent.

Issuance of total building permits decreased 2.2 percent to a seasonably adjusted rate of 2.124 million units for the month. Single-family permit issuance dipped 1.3 percent and multifamily permit issuance was down 5.5 percent.

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