WASHINGTON - Coming off the rapid rate of production that closed out 2003, home builders slowed the pace of housing starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.903 million units in January, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported. This is 7.9 percent below December's revised estimate of 2.067 million units. However, it is 4.1 percent above the January 2003 rate and 12 percent above the annual total of 1.848 million for 2003, which was the highest in 26 years.

"Builders have just finished an incredibly strong year and we are starting 2004 at a pace that will keep us on track to match 2003's record production," stated Bobby Rayburn, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home and apartment builder from Jackson, Miss.

Single-family starts dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.537 million units. This was 8 percent below the revised December rate, but 1.9 percent above the January 2003 pace.

"Although the January rate was lower than in the final months of 2003, it was still exceptionally high," noted David Seiders, NAHB's chief economist.

The pace of multifamily housing starts decreased 3.6 percent from December to a seasonally adjusted rate of 339,000 units, but was 21.9 percent above the pace of a year ago.

Construction of new homes and apartments slowed in all regions in January. The Northeast and Midwest, where unusually bad weather had some effect, posted declines of 14 percent and 21 percent from December's rate, respectively. The pace of construction in the South and West was down 5.2 percent and 1 percent, respectively, from December.

Issuance of total building permits in January was down 2.8 percent from December to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.899 million units, but was 6.9 percent above January 2003. Single-family permits decreased by 2.8 percent and multifamily permits were down 8.7 percent from the December pace.

Publication date: 02/16/2004