Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Commerce Department reported(.pdf) that housing starts fell 5.9 percent in February, from a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 611,000 to 575,000, while permits for new construction dropped 1.6 percent, from 621,000 to 612,000.
Homebuilding activity has been at depressed levels for almost a year-and-a-half now as distressed sales have continued to limit demand for new construction.
January housing starts were revised upward from 591,000 to 611,000 making the decline in February about twice as large as it would have been using originally reported data and the previously reported number of housing permits was also revised upward.
Inclement weather in parts of the country affected the February data, however, housing starts fell more in the South (down 16 percent) than in the Northeast (down 9.6 percent) during a month of record snowfall in the Northeast.
On a year-over-year basis, new home construction was up 0.2 percent while the number of permits issued rose 11.3 percent and, from the peak of homebuilding activity in 2005, housing starts are now down 73 percent with permits issued are a full 75 percent lower.