U.S. Housing Starts Fall for Third Consecutive Month in May

WASHINGTON--U.S. housing starts decreased for the third consecutive month in May, a sign home builders are struggling to meet buyer demand.

Housing starts dropped 5.5% in May from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.092 million, the Commerce Department said Friday. This figure carries a margin of error of 11.9%.

Residential building permits, an indication of how much construction is in the pipeline, fell 4.9% to an annual pace of 1.168 million last month, the agency said.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 3.4% increase for starts and a 0.8% rise for permits.

Starts fell in May for single-family and multifamily construction. Permits last month were down 10.4% for buildings with multiple units and down 1.9% for single-family homes.

Data on housing starts tend to be volatile from month to month and can be subject to sharp revisions. Looking past month-to-month fluctuations, starts in the first five months of the year were up 3.2%. Permits during this period increased 5.5%.

The Commerce report can be found at http://www.census.gov/construction/nrc/pdf/newresconst.pdf

Write to Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com and Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires