The numbers: Builders started construction on new homes in the U.S. at a pace of 1.6 million in February, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. This represented a 1.5% decrease from an upwardly revised 1.62 million in January, but was 39% higher than a year ago.
Permitting activity for new homes, meanwhile, fell 5.5% from January’s 13-year high to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.46 million. This figure is nonetheless 14% higher than a year ago.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had anticipated housing starts and building permits to have occurred at a 1.49 million rate and a 1.5 million rate respectively.
What happened: Declines in activity surrounding multifamily buildings drove the downturn in both housing starts and building permits.
For housing starts, multifamily construction fell 17%, but single-family home building actually increased 6.7% between January and February. Similarly, multifamily permits dipped 20.2%, while one-unit properties rose 1.7% and two-to-four