Housing starts and completions plummeted nationwide in February, but especially in the Northeast and Midwest where record cold and nearly constant snowstorms took a substantial toll. Nationwide, housing starts were down 17.0 percent from January's slightly upwardly revised estimate of 1,081,000 units to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 897,000.  Given that February 2014 had also featured unusually brutal weather the recent month's number was down only 3.3 percent from the 928,000 starts reported a year earlier. 

Single-family construction starts in February were down 14.9 percent from the previous month's rate of 697,000 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 593,000.  In February 2014 the rate was fractionally higher at 589,000 units.  Starts in buildings with five or more units dropped 21.6 percent from the previous month to 297,000 units on an annual basis.

On a non-adjusted basis construction started on an estimated 62,400 housing units in February compared to 73,500 in January.  Single-family starts were estimated at 40,700.

Housing starts were down in every region with the Northeast falling 56.5 percent from the previous month and 46.0 percent compared to a year earlier.  In the Midwest the February number was down 37.0 percent and 20.5 percent from the two earlier periods.  The month-over-month loss in the South was a relatively moderate 2.5 percent while starts increased 2.4 percent from a year earlier.  In the West starts were 18.2 percent lower than in January but 10.1 percent above February 2014 figures.

Construction completions were also affected by the weather, with 13.8 percent fewer units completed in February than in January.  The annual rate of completions fell from an estimated rate of 986,000 units (revised upward from 930,000) in January to 850,000 in February.  The latter figure was 1.8 percent below the rate of 866,000 units in February 2014.

Single-family home completions in February were at a rate of 595,000, down 12.1 percent month-over-month.  Completions in buildings with five units or more was estimated at a rate of 236,000 compared to 302,000 in January, a drop of 21.9 percent.

On a non-adjusted basis there were 58,000 housing units completed in February, 41,600 of which were single-family.  In January completions numbered 65,800.

On a regional basis the Northeast saw the rate of completions fall by 29.3 percent from January and 18.5 percent from a year earlier.  The Midwest was down 7.4 percent and 18.2 percent for the two periods.  In the South completions decreased by 14.0 percent for the month but were up 5.3 percent from February 2014 and in the West they were down 12.0 percent for the month but unchanged year-over-year.

Permits fared better than the other two metrics, rising from a seasonally adjusted annual estimate of 1,060,000 in January (revised from the 1,053,000 units originally reported) to 1,092,000, an increase of 3.0 percent.  The February pace was up 7.7 percent from the 1,014,000 rate of permitting in February 2014.

Single family permits were issued at a rate of 620,000, down 6.2 percent from January's 661,000.  Permits in multi-family buildings were up 19.9 percent from the January pace to an annual rate of 445,000 which was also 15.0 percent higher than a year earlier.

On a non-adjusted basis there were 76,800 permits issued in February compared to 70,000 the previous month and 70,600 in February 2014.  Single-family permits totaled 43,300, down 2,000 from the January number.

Permits were down significantly in the Northeast where they were issued at a rate 17.4 percent below that of January and 6.3 percent lower than a year earlier.  Elsewhere total permitting rose but single family permits were down everywhere but in the West.  In the Midwest permits were issued at a 6.1 percent higher rate than in January and 14.6 percent higher than in February 2014.  In the South the increases were 7.3 percent and 4.9 percent and in the West they were up 2.2 percent and 16.3 percent.

At the end of February there were an estimated 836,000 housing units under construction.  Approximately 123,500 permits had been issued for which construction had not yet been started.