The rate of housing starts dropped an estimated 5.7 percent from December 2004 to December 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today, while the rate of building permit authorizations was down about 0.6 percent.

Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in December were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 2,068,000. This is 4.4 percent below the revised November rate of 2,163,000 and a 0.6 percent below the December 2004 estimate of 2,081,000, the agencies announced.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate projects a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusting for seasonal variations in the market.

Single-family authorizations in December were at a rate of about 1,637,000; this is 5 percent below the November figure of 1,724,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 347,000 in December.

An estimated 2,141,200 housing units were authorized by building permits in 2005. This is 3.4 percent above the 2004 figure of 2,071,100, according to the report..

Privately owned housing starts in December were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1,933,000. This is 8.9 percent below the revised November estimate of 2,121,000 and is 5.7 percent below the December 2004 rate of 2,050,000.

Single-family housing starts in December 2005 were at a rate of about 1,577,000; this is 12.3 percent below the November figure of 1,798,000. The December rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 322,000. An estimated 2,064,700 housing units were started in 2005. This is 5.6 percent above the 2004 figure of 1,955,800.

Privately owned housing completions in December were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1,953,000. This is 3.8 percent above the revised November estimate of 1,882,000 and is 2.2 percent above the December 2004 rate of 1,911,000.

Single-family housing completions in December 2005 were at a rate of about 1,665,000; this is 3.8 percent above the November figure of 1,604,000. The December rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 245,000.

An estimated 1,930,300 housing units were completed in 2005. This is 4.8 percent above the 2004 figure of 1,841,900.

The Census Bureau noted that month-to-month changes in seasonally adjusted statistics can show irregular movements. It may take four months to establish an underlying trend for building permit authorizations, six months for total starts, and six months for total completions, for example.

Statistics in the report are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability as well as 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.

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