All three Census Bureau/Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) measures of residential construction activity, housing permits, starts, and completions, were down in December as compared to November.  All but one previous November estimates however were revised upward.

Building permits were issued for residential construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 986,000, down 3.0 percent from the new November estimate of 1,017,000.  November permits were originally reported at a rate of 1,007,000.  The December estimate was an increase of 4.6 percent from permits issued in December 2012 which were at a rate of 943,000.

Single family permits in December were at a rate of 610,000, 4.8 percent below the revised (from 634,000) November rate of 641,000.  Multifamily permitting was down 0.6 percent from 352,000 in November to 350,000 in December.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis there were an estimated 74,900 permits issued in December.  Approximately 43,500 of these were for single-family construction.  An estimated 974,700 housing units were authorized by permit in 2013.  This is 17.5 percent above the estimate for all of 2012.

Housing starts decreased by 9.8 percent in December to an annual rate of 999,000 from a revised November figure (from 1,091,000) of 1,107,000.  Starts were 1.6 percent above the 983,000 pace in December 2012. 

Single-family housing starts were estimated at a rate of 667,000, down 7.0 percent from November.  The November rate was originally estimated at 727,000 and was revised down to 717,000.  There were 312,000 units completed in buildings with five or more units, down 17.9 percent from 380,000 the previous month.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis there were 65,700 units of housing started in December compared to 84,200 in November.  Single-family starts numbered an estimated 42,400. Over the course of 2013 the Census Bureau and HUD estimate there were 923,400 housing units started.  This is 18.3 percent higher than the 780,600 starts in 2012.

Housing completions were estimated at a rate of 744,000 units, down 10.8 percent from November's estimate of 834,000 but 10.7 percent higher than one year earlier when completions were estimated at a rate of 672,000.   Housing starts for November were revised upward from 823,000.

Single family completions were at a rate of 550,000, 8.1 percent below November's 834,000 and 10.7 percent above a year earlier.  Multifamily completions were at a rate of 183,000.  There were an estimated 762,200 housing units completed in 2013.  This is 17.4 percent more than the 649,200 completed the previous year.

In the Northeast region permitting was up 11.2 percent for the month and 19.0 percent for the year.  Starts were unchanged from November to December but dropped 21.7 percent from the previous December. Completions increased by 15.0 percent and 61.4 percent for the monthly and yearly periods respectively.

The Midwest saw permits fall by 18.8 percent from November and 11.0 percent from December 2012.  Starts dropped sharply for both periods, down 33.5 percent and 22.6 percent respectively.  Completions fell 19.1 percent from November but were 9.0 percent above those of a year earlier.

Permitting in the South was down by 7.4 percent from November to December but up 0.4 percent compared to December 2012.  Starts declined by 12.3 percent for the month but were 6.0 percent higher than a year earlier.  Completions were down 7.5 percent from November but increased 8.2 percent from the previous December.

The West had an increase in permits of 10.5 percent month-over-month and 16.8 percent year-over-year.  Starts were up 15.0 percent November to December and 26.3 percent for the year.  Housing completions were off by 17.0 percent for the month but were 9.9 percent higher than the previous year.

At the end of December there were an estimated 707,000 units under construction nationwide and 108,700 permits outstanding for which construction had not been started.  Nearly half of the incomplete construction and over 60 percent of outstanding permits were located the South.