WASHINGTON — Housing starts in May increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.73 million units, up 6.1 percent from the previous month, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported.

"After some weather-related delays in April, builders were able to pick up the pace of new construction in May," commented Kent Conine, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). "However, unusually wet weather in much of the East and parts of the Midwest and West likely still kept some construction in check last month, and we could see that activity carry over for additional solid gains in June's report."

Home builders boosted the pace of single-family housing construction 1.5 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.38 million units. Meanwhile, multifamily starts, which traditionally show significant month-to-month volatility, rose 29.2 percent in May to a 354,000-unit rate. In both sectors, the year-to-date construction total is running above last year's pace.

Regionally, starts rose in the Midwest, South, and West in May by 14, 7.4, and 0.7 percent, respectively. Only the Northeast posted a decline, of 1.3 percent, which experts say is weather-related.

Issuance of building permits was up 3.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.79 million units — the strongest pace since last December. Single-family permits rose 0.3 percent to a rate of 1.34 million units, while multifamily permits rose 15.3 percent to a rate of 452,000 units.

"NAHB is still projecting 1.7 million housing starts for all of 2003, which is on par with last year's excellent performance," said David Seiders, chief economist of the NAHB. "The single-family market actually is on track to slightly exceed 2002, while the multifamily component should be off only modestly."

Publication date: 06/16/2003