Housing starts fell to an annual rate of 907,000 last month from an upwardly revised 909,000 in January, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Economists had expected starts to rise to a seasonally adjusted 908,000.Bad weather prevented builders from starting new projects, especially early in the month.
The requests for new building permits climbed to the highest rate since October and the second highest level since the recession ended in mid-2009. Permits climbed 7.7% to an annual rate of 1.02 million, entirely because of a sharp uptick in plans to build multi-dwelling units such as condos and apartments.
Permits for multi-dwelling units leaped 24.3%, but permits for single-family homes declined 1.8%. The multi-dwelling unit can be quite volatile, however, while single-family homes account for about three-quarters of the housing market.
Still, permits reflect how many new homes companies plan to build in the near future. The rise in permits signals that builders plan to ramp up construction as warm weather arrives.New construction increased in the Midwest and South and tapered off in the Northeast and West.
In January, annualized housing starts were revised up from an initial estimate of 880,000. Permits in January were also revised up slightly.