Numbers for both housing permits and housing starts were much lower in January than in December while housing completions were up.  The Northeast region of the country saw a huge spurt in housing starts apparently all in the multi-family sector while starts in the Midwest plummeted, possibly because of the prolonged and harsh winter weather in the region.   The data on new residential construction was issued today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Permits nationwide were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 937,000 units, 5.4 percent below the upwardly revised (from 986,000 units) rate of 991,000 units in December and 2.4 percent above the estimate of 915,000 permits in January 2013.  Single family permits were issued at a rate of 602,000 units, down 1.3 percent from December's estimate of 610,000 and 2.4 percent more than were issued a year earlier.  Permits for construction in buildings with five or more units were at the rate of 309,000, down 13.0 percent from December.

On an unadjusted basis permits were estimated to number 64,300; an estimated 41,200 of which were for single-family construction.

Housing starts in January were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 880,000, 16.0 percent below December's estimate of 1.048 million and 2.0 percent lower than the rate of 898,000 in January 2013.  The December number is an upward revision from 999,000 units.  Single family starts were at a rate of 573,000, down 15.9 percent from the previous month's 681,000 starts and 6.7 percent lower than starts in January 2013.  Multifamily starts were estimated to be at a rate of 300,000, a 12.8 percent drop from December.

On an unadjusted basis, there were an estimated 59,100 housing starts nationwide.  Single family starts were estimated at 38,200.

Houses were completed during the month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 814,000, up 4.6 percent from December's revised estimate (from 744,000) of 778,000, and 13.1 percent higher than the estimated 720,000 completions a year earlier.  Single family completions were estimated at a rate of 580,000, up 3.0 percent from December and the completion rate for multi-family units was estimated at 220,000.

There were an estimated 54,300 units of housing completed during the month on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.  An estimated 38,500 of the units were single-family houses.

In the Northeast region permitting was down 10.3 percent from the December level and 4.0 percent higher than in January 2013.  However housing starts surged by 63.9 percent from December levels and were 56.3 percent higher than a year earlier.  Single family starts played only a small role in the increase, rising 2.0 percent from December.  Housing completions were estimate to be at a rate 3.1 percent below that in December but 30.1 percent above a year earlier.

Permits were issued in the Midwest at an 8.6 percent higher rate than in December and 2.7 percent higher than a year earlier.  Housing starts were down 67.7 percent month over month and 47.4 percent on an annual basis with a 60.3 percent drop in single-family starts from December.  Housing completions were 5.0 percent higher than the previous month and increased 42.7 percent from a year earlier.

The South saw permitting increase by 3.4 percent month-over month and it was up 7.8 percent from the same month in 2013.  Housing starts were down 12.8 percent from December and 5.4 percent from a year earlier.  Completions rose 10.3 percent and 15.7 percent for the two respective periods.

Permits dropped 26.0 percent in January in the West and were issued at a rate 9.5 percent below that of a year earlier. Housing starts decreased 17.4 percent from the previous month and were 1.7 percent higher than in January 2013. Houses were completed at a rate 4.1 percent below the rate in December and 12.8 percent below the previous January.

At the end of January there were 107,700 permits that had been authorized but for which construction had not yet been started.  Approximately 55,100 of these permits were for single family construction and 63,800 of the outstanding permits were located in the South.  There were 715,000 units under construction at the end of the reporting period; 340,000 units were single family houses and 365,000 units were in building with five or more units.