With a surprising 82 percent increase in apartment building construction in February, housing starts in the United States jumped 22 percent in February compared to February, a seasonally adjusted rate of 583,000, according to Commerce Department estimates released last week.
The jump was the largest percentage increase in 19 years and was the first increase in eight months in the battered housing sector.
Economists cautioned that housing starts in winter can be greatly affected by weather. Building permits, less volatile, increased 3 percent in February to a 547,000 annual rate, and permits for single-family units leapt 11 percent to a 373,000 rate, the largest percentage gain in 18 years. Experts added that while the increase was better than the continued decline economists expected, the gain was likely to be temporary, given the many problems the housing industry still faces.
Although the news was good, housing starts still dropped 47 percent compared with February of 2008, and have decreased 74 percent from the peak in early 2006. Starts rose 89 percent in the Northeast in February, 58 percent in the Midwest and 30 percent in the South, while dropping 25 percent in the West.