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Census Bureau: Building Permits Up 35.2 Percent in January

by Peter Thomas Ricci

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Building permits showed particular growth in the Census Bureau’s latest data on residential home construction.

January was another strong month of residential construction activity, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau, with building permits increasing 35.2 percent year-over-year.

With a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 925,000, building permits also increased 1.8 percent from December to January, while single-family authorizations were up 1.9 percent and multifamily permits by 3.3 percent.

Building Permits – Sign of Future Construction Activity

January’s building permits were yet another sign of growing activity in the new construction markets. The Census Bureau also has promising stats for housing starts:

  • Though housing starts fell 8.5 percent from December to January, they were up 23.6 percent over January 2012 with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 890,000; and, as Bill McBride noted on his Calculated Risk blog, housing starts are now up 86 percent from their post-boom low.
  • The news was positive, though, for single-family housing starts, which grew 0.8 percent from December to a rate of 613,000; that’s the highest level for single-family starts since 2008, McBride noted, and is 74 percent higher than the post-boom low.

Housing Completions Also Strong

Finally, news was also good for housing completions, which, at an annual rate of 724,000, were up 6.0 percent from December and 33.6 percent from January 2012, while single-family housing completions were up 7.0 percent from December.

Along with the data on building permits and housing starts, the Census Bureau’s data shows a gradually recovering construction sector, and one that is beginning to benefit homebuilders as well as agents.

As we reported yesterday, the National Association of Home Builder’s (NAHB) newest Housing Market Index, the definite measure of homebuilder confidence in the U.S., was at its highest level since 2006, with homebuilders being particularly keen on current sales conditions and sales expectations for the next six months.

We should add, though, that Rick Judson, the NAHB’s chairman, did note a couple of possible trouble spots for builders. Both rising building costs, he said, and a shortage of labor and available lots have proven troublesome for homebuilders.

But what’s your sense? Are these momentary blips, in the light of the Census Bureau’s findings? Let us know in the comments section.

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