Although the New Residential Construction report released by the Census Bureau has notoriously wide margins of error, it's rare to see numbers like today's rendered irrelevant by a revision. In fact, even in the case of the most extreme negative revision, Housing Starts (the ground-breaking phase of new construction) would still be up roughly 7% from April. As reported, starts surged a whopping 21.7% to an annual pace of 1,631,000.
Multifamily starts jumped even more: 28.1% from last month and 39.6% vs a year ago. Multifamily continues eating into the market share of single family construction, growing 2.4% faster from last month and 33.7% faster over the past 12 months. In terms of outright levels, multi-fam starts are the highest since the 1980s. That said, single family construction still has a bigger piece of the pie.
One striking feature of this month's numbers is the sharp reversal from a trend negative growth to positive. In fact, the year-over-year change in housing starts was at a 14 year low last month. Today's data leaves May at a 13 month high (also the first positive reading during that time).
Granted, part of the reason such things are possible is the fact that last year saw a sharp decline from April to May (i.e. today's data is now compared against a much shorter yard stick), but even then, the outright level of starts is the 10th highest in over a decade.