Housing starts charts: crunching the numbers

Here are three more illustrations of February’s residential construction data.

February’s residential construction report from the Commerce Department revealed disappointing declines in a number of month-to-month and year-over-year comparisons. As the chart below reveals, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,421,000 is down from January, and also down from February 2020.

The pace of total starts in February fell 10.3% compared to the prior month, and fell 9.3% compared to the same month last year. 

Here are two positive takeaways from the chart below. 1) While the declines compared to 2020 are significant, the gains over 2019 are even greater. And 2) We're coming up on several months that anniversary against soft numbers -- particularly April and May. And that could lead to exceptional growth stats in the coming months.

Total Housing Starts
Through February, SAAR, in thousands

chart, bar chart
Source: Commerce Department

On an unadjusted year-to-date basis, there have been 211,700 housing starts in the first two months of 2021. Below Is a chart showing how 2021 compares to each of the previous three years in raw number, uncomplicated by seasonal or other adjustments.

Year-to-date Housing Starts
Unadjusted, in thousands

chart, bar chart
Source: Commerce Dept.

On the single-family front, it is worth looking at the numbers with a long-term,  big-picture perspective. The chart below extends back 15 years. February’s single-family housing starts posted a SAAR of 1,046,000. That rate has been surpassed only five times since mid 2007.

Single-family starts
Sept. 2006 to Feb. 2021, SAAR, in thousands

Source: Commerce Dept.

The Commerce Department's latest residential-construction data release is available here