Residential construction starts rose in May while permitting for new construction was down slightly the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development said today.  Privately-owned housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 914,000, a 6.8 percent increase from April's revised estimate of 856,000.  Starts were 28.6 percent higher than a year ago when the rate was 711,000 units.  The revision to the April housing starts number raised the estimate from 853,000 units.

Single-family housing starts were at a rate of 599,000, up 0.3 percent from the April estimate of 597,000, revised down from 610,000.  Construction began on 306,000 units located in buildings with five or more units, a 24.9 percent increase from the previous month.

Residential construction permits were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 974,000 units, a 3.1 percent drop from the April rate of 1,005,000 (revised from 1.017, 000) units.  Permits were issued in May at a rate 20.8 percent higher than one year earlier when the rate was 806,000 units.

Permits for single family construction were issued at a rate of 622,000, up 1.3 percent from 614,000 in April.  Authorizations for units in buildings with five or more were at a rate of 325,000 compared to 366,000 in April.

Privately owned housing completions in May were at a rate of 690,000, down 0.9 percent from the upwardly revised April number of 696,000 but 12.6 percent higher than one year earlier.  Single family completions were at a rate of 546,000, a 4.2 percent increase, and completions in multi-unit builders were at a rate of 135,000.

At the end of the reporting period there were an estimated 620,000 residential units under construction; 305,000 single family and 305,000 units in multifamily buildings.  All of these numbers represented 2 to 3 percent increases over April figures.  There were 100,000 permits outstanding at the end of the month for which construction had not yet started.  44,500 of those units were for multifamily construction.

On a regional basis permits in the Northeast increased by 4.0 percent from April and were up 30.4 percent from a year earlier.  Housing starts were down 9.0 percent from both April 2013 and May 2012.

In the Midwest permits were issued at a rate 6.1 percent below the previous month, but up 28.1 percent from May 2012.  Housing starts decreased 13.7 percent from April but were up 23.4 percent from the prior year.  

The South saw a 3.3 percent decrease in permits in May compared to April but a 15.5 percent improvement over the prior year.  Housing starts increased 17.8 percent and 33.5 percent respectively for the two earlier periods.

Permitting was down 3.5 percent in the West on a month-over-month basis but up 15.5 percent year-over-year.  Starts were up 5.7 percent and 39.0 percent.