The good news in May's housing starts report is centered in the present, less so in the outlook. Starts jumped 5.0 percent in the month to a 1.350 million annualized rate that hits the top end of Econoday's consensus range and that should give a boost to residential investment in the second-quarter GDP report. Good news also comes from completions which rose 1.9 percent to a 1.291 million rate which will help feed a housing market starving for immediate supply.
The question of future supply is still very positive but, however, has not improved in the May report as building permits fell for a second straight month and very steeply in May, down 4.6 percent to a 1.301 million rate. Weakness includes single-family homes, down 2.2 percent to a 844,000 rate, and once again multi-family units which are down 8.8 percent to a 457,000 rate.
Back to the good news as the breakdown for starts shows a 3.9 percent rise in single-family homes to 936,000 and a 7.5 percent gain for multi-units to 414,000. The gain for completions is entirely centered in the key single-family category, up 11.0 percent to 890,000 to offset a 13.8 percent decline for multi-units.
Building in the housing sector, given reports of shortages of construction workers and also construction equipment, may be progressing at the fastest rate possible based on year-on-year rates of growth: at 20.3 percent for starts, 10.4 percent for completions with permits at 8.0 percent.
The new home market, where sales are up in the low double digits, is a leading sector of the economy but appears to be bumping up against capacity constraints. Showing much less strength than new home sales have been resales which have been surprisingly flat and which will be updated with tomorrow's existing home sales report.
A jump higher for housing starts and a steady showing for building permits are the expectations for May, at a 1.320 million annualized rate for starts, compared to 1.287 million in April, and 1.350 million for permits vs April's 1.352 million. Results in this report have been flat in recent months though the underlying trends are solidly positive with starts up 10.5 percent year-on-year and permits up 7.7 percent.