Housing Starts Beat, Permits Miss; Both Crawl Along Record Bottom

Following several months of permits rising even as starts flatlined, today we get the opposite, as forward looking construction came weaker than expected, with permits printing at 715K on expectations of 730K, while starts coming ahead at 717K on expectations of 685K. Completions soared as backlogs caught up with inventory started and under construction. Really, that's all one can say about these two series, who long-term charts can be seen below. What can one say but crawling at the bottom, and increasing modestly courtesy of trillions in fiscal and monetary stimulus, and as of recently full-blown mortgage debt forgiveness courtesy of this country's desperate administration to get some traction in at least one metric of economic improvement.

Long-term starts:

Long-term permits:

And Goldman's take:


  1. Housing starts rose by 2.6% (month-over-month) to an annualized rate of 717k units. Although the monthly growth rate was below consensus expectations, the level of starts was higher than expected due to upward revisions to earlier months. Single-family starts rose by 2.3% in April and multi-family starts (apartment buildings and condos) rose by 3.2%.
  2. In contrast to the modest increase in starts, building permits declined by 7.0% (month-over-month) in April. Although discouraging news, we would emphasize that the decline was entirely due to a 21% drop in multi-family permits, which followed a 32% increase in multi-family permits in March. Because multi-family permits can be quite volatile, we think the latest weakness should be partly discounted. Single-family permits rose by 1.9% during the month