Total housing starts increased 18.6 percent in January 2019 (1.230 million units) compared to a revised down December estimate of 1.037 million units. However, total starts are 7.8 percent below the January 2018 level of 1.334 million units, according to a report from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Commerce Department that was delayed due to the partial government shutdown.
The pace of single-family starts increased 25.1 percent in January, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 926,000. December single-family starts were revised down by 89,000 units on an annual rate. On a year-over-year basis, single-family starts are 4.5 percent higher relative to January 2018. However, single-family permits, a useful indicator of future construction activity, were 6.7 percent lower in January 2019 compared to January 2018.
The multifamily sector (2+ units), which includes apartment buildings and condos, posted an increase of 2.4 percent in January to a 304,000 annual rate. On a year-over-year basis, multifamily 5+ unit production is 33.6 percent lower compared to January 2018, while multifamily 5+ unit permitting is trending higher with an increase of 6.9 percent.
Regional data shows, on a year-over-year basis single-family starts posted positive conditions across the Northeast (+33.9 percent) and the South (+9.9 percent). However, single-family construction is down 10.7 percent in the Midwest and 6.6 percent in the West. Similarly, single-family permits are up only in the Northeast (+16.7 percent). Midwest (-9.7 percent), South (-4.5 percent), and the West (-14.5 percent) posted declines in January 2019, compared to a year before.