Housing Starts Hit Highest Rate Since June '08

By FOXBusiness

U.S. home building closed out 2012 with the most new homes started since June 2008, as the Commerce Department reported on Thursday a 12.1% rise in housing starts last month.

New homes hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000. Construction for the year was up 36.9% over 2011, with 780,000 new homes started to reflect the highest rate since 2008.

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Single-family homes comprised two-thirds of housing starts last month, rising 8.1% in December to a rate of 616,000 units. That was an increase of 18.5% from a year earlier.

Construction of multi-family homes, which is considered a volatile component, surged 20.3%.

All four U.S. regions saw a jump in new homes last month. Numbers were up 24.7% in the Midwest, 21.4% in the Northeast, 18.7% in the West and 3.8% in the South.

The Commerce Department’s numbers soared past expectations. Economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected overall housing starts would rise to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 890,000.

Housing starts in November were revised down to 851,000, a 4.3% decrease from the previous month.

Actual housing starts without seasonal adjustments, which are a better gauge of demand for lumber and commodities markets, dropped slightly to 61,500 in December from a downwardly revised 63,300 in November.

Looking ahead in the housing market, permits for future home construction increased to a 903,000-unit rate, the quickest since July 2008.