WASHINGTON - Home builders ramped up the pace of housing starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.96 million units in October, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported. This was 2.9 percent above September's upwardly revised estimate of 1.905 million units, and it eclipsed the October 2002 rate of 1.653 million units by 18.6 percent.

In addition, issuance of building permits for October increased 5.2 percent over September to a seasonably adjusted rate of 1.973 million units, which is 8.8 percent higher than a year ago.

The new report "indicates that the housing market has remained very strong as builders beefed up production to meet demand," said David Seiders, chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "Starts and permits have been running at an elevated pace since the summer and fundamentals suggest that this strong new home market should carry through into 2004."

"This is continuing to be a remarkable year as home builders work hard to meet very strong housing demand," said Kent Conine, president of the NAHB. "Builders are clearly continuing to react to a market fueled by low interest rates and solid house-price performance."

Single-family starts reached their highest pace ever in October - a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.617 million units. Multifamily starts dipped to 343,000 units, 8.5 percent below September's pace.

Housing starts were mixed in regions across the country. The West and South posted 17.7 percent and 4.9 percent gains, respectively, while the Northeast and Midwest declined 18 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Single-family permits rose by 3.2 percent and multifamily permits were 12.9 percent above the September pace. Total permits rose in all regions except the Midwest where issuance dropped 1.3 percent.

Publication date: 11/24/2003