Like much of the economic data released in recent months, the Commerce Department’s Wednesday report on U.S. homebuilding gave a picture of an improving, but still incomplete, recovery.
For the month of January, housing starts fell by 8.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 890,000. Comparing this figure to both the previous month’s numbers and those of last January shows that the housing recovery still faces some obstacles. In December, homebuilders began construction on 973,000 new homes, while in January of 2012, new-home construction was up 23.6 percent. Economists were not overly optimistic ahead of the report, but they had been predicting slightly better results. A decrease in housing starts of 3.1 percent was set as their consensus estimate, according to a survey conducted by Dow Jones Newswires.
However, there were signs of growth. Construction of single-family homes, a segment of homebuilding that represented approximately two-thirds of all new housing starts last month, increased 0.8 percent to a rate of 613,000 units, a gain of 20 percent from a year earlier. In addition, the construction of single-family homes was at its highest level since the financial crisis began.
The single-family home construction figures provided a sign that the housing market is improving, as did the increase in the number of new building permits. The number of new permits, an indication of future construction, jumped 1.8 percent to an annualized level of 925,000 last month. This is the highest level reached since June 2008, and it surpassed analysts expectations for a rate of 920,000…