The Commerce Department found housing starts declined in December after a November spike. Building permits picked up, signaling upward construction growth.

WASHINGTON – After reporting a sharp increase in new residential construction in the U.S. in the previous month, the Commerce Department released a report on Thursday showing a notable pullback by housing starts in the month of December.

The Commerce Department said housing starts slumped by 4.3% to an annual rate of 1.460 million in December after spiking by 10.8% to a revised rate of 1.525 million in November.

Economists had expected housing starts to pull back by 8.6% to a rate of 1.426 million from the 1.560 million originally reported for the previous month.

Single-family housing starts led the pullback, tumbling by 8.6% to a rate of 1.027 million in December after soaring by 15.4% to a rate of 1.124 million in November.

Meanwhile, multi-family housing starts surged by 8.0% to a rate of 433,000 in December after slipping by 0.3% to a rate of 401,000 in November.

“Housing starts fell in December but remained solid as demand for new builds maintains a high floor amid a persistent extreme shortage of housing inventory,” said Nationwide Economist Daniel Vielhaber.

He added, “With a substantial move downward in mortgage rates still a ways off, this dynamic is expected to remain through the early months of 2024.”

The report also said building permits surged by 1.9% to an annual rate of 1.495 million in December after tumbling by 2.1% to a revised rate of 1.467 million in November.

Building permits, an indicator of future housing demand, were expected to jump by 1.4% to a rate of 1.480 million from the 1.460 million originally reported for the previous month.

Single-family permits shot up by 1.9% to a rate of 994,000, while multi-family permits jumped by 2.2% to a rate of 501,000.

The National Association of Home Builders released a separate report on Wednesday showing a significant improvement in U.S. homebuilder confidence in the month of January.

The report said the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index jumped to 44 in January from 37 in December. Economists had expected the index to rise to 39.

building starts graph from the commerce deparment on Jan. 18. shows a drop in starts for December 2023

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Author: amyc