The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported this morning that permits for the construction of new privately-owned residential construction jumped 7.9 percent in May.  This results in a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 780,000, up from an upwardly revised level of 723,000 permits in April.  The April number was originally reported at 715,000.  The pace of permitting in May is 25 percent higher than the 624,000 permits reported in May 2011.

Permits for single-family construction were at a rate of 494,000, up 4.0 percent from the 475,000 reported in April.  Multi-family permits (units in buildings of five or more units) were at the rate of 266,000, compared to a revised 226,000 rate (originally reported at 217,000) in April.

Building Permits

Housing starts fell by 4.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 708,000; a 28.5 percent increase from one year earlier.  In April there were 744,000 starts, a substantial upward revision from the 717,000 pace originally reported.

Single family starts were at an adjusted rate of 516,000, up 3.2 percent from the revised April figure of 500,000, 8,000 higher than originally reported.  The May figure was 26.2 percent higher than that reported in May, 2011.  Multifamily starts were at a rate of 179,000, down 24.2 percent month-over-month but 31.6 percent higher than one year earlier.

Housing Starts

Housing completions were at a rate of 598,000, a 10.3 percent drop from April but 10.1 percent higher than in May 2011.  Single-family completions were at the rate of 458,000, down 6.3 percent from April's 489,000.  Units in multi-family buildings were completed at an annual rate of 130,000.

The pace of permitting rose in three of four regions, falling by 8.0 percent in the Northeast but rising 6.1 percent in the Midwest, 11.1 percent in the South, and 10.5 percent in the West.  Housing starts however rose only in the West, by 14.4 percent.  They fell in the Northeast by 20.3 percent, in the Midwest by 13.3 percent, and in the South by 6.1 percent.

At the end of the reporting period there were 88,900 units with permits for which construction had not started.  Nearly half of these (39,100) were for construction of units in multi-family buildings and 24,900 of those were located in the South.