February starts hold steady over January

Housing starts stayed above the million-unit marker, but building permits slipped 7.8 percent compared to January’s figures.

The latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce released Tuesday showed February housing starts at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.065 million, down 0.6 percent from the previous month’s upwardly revised rate. Total starts were down 28.4 percent from the same month last year.

The rate of single-family starts in February was down 6.7 percent from last month, and down 40.5 percent compared to February 2007.

Looking at specific regions, three out of four avoided month-to-month declines in total starts. The West showed a 5.1 percent increase, the South showed a 3.9 percent increase and the Midwest was flat. However the decline in the Northeast was substantial: down 27.7 percent.

Less rosy was the month-to-month picture of single-family starts, where three of the four regions showed declines. The Northeast was down 42.3 percent, the Midwest was down 11.5 percent and the South was down 7.0 percent.

Compared to January, single-family starts were up 30.6 percent in the West.

January’s total starts were originally reported at 1.012 million, but that figure was revised upward to 1.071 million.

Meanwhile, building permits in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 978,000. That figure is down 7.8 percent from the revised January rate of 1,061,000 and is 36.5 percent below the revised February 2007 estimate of 1,541,000.

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