The rate of housing completions dropped 10.1 percent from May 2005 to May 2006, while building permit activity fell 8.5 percent and housing starts were down 3.8 percent in that time, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today.

Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in May were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1.93 million, down 2.1 percent from the revised April rate. Single-family housing authorizations in May were at a rate of about 1.47 million, which is down 2.1 percent from April and down 12.2 percent from May 2005. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 383,000 in May.

Privately owned housing starts in May were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1.96 million. This is 5 percent above the revised April estimate. Single-family housing starts in May were at a rate of about 1.59 million, which is 2.1 percent above the April figure but down 7.6 percent since May 2005. The May 2006 rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 321,000.

Privately owned housing completions in May were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1.88 million, which is 8 percent below the revised April estimate. Single-family housing completions in May were at a rate of about 1.62 million, which is 6 percent below the April figure and 6.8 percent below the May 2005 rate. The May 2006 rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 226,000.

Month-to-month changes in seasonally adjusted statistics can show irregular movements, the agencies noted. It may take four months to establish an underlying trend for building permit authorizations, five months for total starts, and six months for total completions, according to the announcement.

Statistics are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability and non-sampling error, including bias and variance from response, non-reporting, and under-coverage. On average, the preliminary seasonally adjusted estimates of total building permits, housing starts and housing completions are revised about 1 percent, the agencies noted.

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