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U.S. homebuilding increased more than expected in January as construction of single-family housing rebounded after four straight monthly declines, but building permits for these units fell to the lowest level since mid-2017.
Housing starts jumped 18.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.230 million units in January, the Commerce Department said on Friday. Data for December was revised down to show starts declining to a rate of 1.037 million units instead of the previously reported pace of 1.078 million units.
Building permits rose 1.4 percent to a rate of 1.345 million units in January, driven by an increase in permits for the volatile multi-family housing segment.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to a pace of 1.197 million units in January. The release of the January housing starts and building permits report was delayed by a five-week partial shutdown of the federal government that ended on Jan. 25.
The housing market hit a soft patch last year amid higher mortgage rates, expensive lumber as well as land and labor shortages, which led to tight inventories and less affordable homes. Investment in homebuilding contracted 0.2 percent in 2018, the weakest performance since 2010.
Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, surged 25.1 percent to a rate of 926,00 units in January, the highest since May 2018. The increase followed four straight monthly declines. Single-family homebuilding rose in all four regions.
Permits to build single-family homes fell 2.1 percent in January to a pace of 812,000 units, the lowest level since August 2017, suggesting weakness in single-family homebuilding in the months ahead.
Starts for the multi-family housing segment rose 2.4 percent to a rate of 304,000 units in January. Permits for the construction of multi-family homes increased 7.2 percent to a pace of 533,000 units.