Single-family housing units authorized by building permits in January were up about 2.4 percent from December and 3.1 percent above the January 2005 rate, the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today.

Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 2.22 million, which is 6.8 percent above the revised December rate and 3.8 percent above the January 2005 estimate. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 428,000 in January.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, accounting for seasonal variations in construction activity.

Privately owned housing starts in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 2.28 million, which is 14.5 percent above the revised December estimate and 4 percent above the January 2005 rate.

Single-family housing starts in January were at a rate of about 1.82 million, which is 12.8 percent above the December figure and 2.8 percent above the January 2005 rate. The January rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 427,000.

Privately owned housing completions in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1.97 million, which is 1.1 percent above the revised December estimate and 4.7 percent above the January 2005 rate.

Single-family housing completions in January were at a rate of about 1.6 million, which is 4.1 percent below the December figure and 1.5 percent above the January 2005 rate. The January rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 327,000.

Regionally, the rate of new privately owned housing units authorized by building permits dropped about 2 percent in the West from January 2005 to January 2006 while increasing about 9.8 percent in the Midwest, 8.7 percent in the Northeast and 3.8 percent in the South.

Housing units authorized but not yet started at the end of January were up about 15.7 percent in the West, 6.6 percent in the Midwest, 6.5 percent in the South and 2.2 percent in the Northeast from January 2005 to January 2006. New privately owned housing units started were down about 7.8 percent in the West but rose 32.3 percent in the Northeast, 11.7 percent in the Midwest and 3.4 percent in the South from January 2005 to January 2006.

New privately owned housing units under construction at the end of January 2006 compared to the end of January 2005 dropped about 1.3 percent in the Midwest but increased about 15.1 percent in the Northeast, 11 percent in the South and 8.6 percent in the West.

The rate of new privately owned housing units completed in January 2006 compared to January 2005 was down about 7.6 percent in the West but up 12.6 percent in the South, 5.7 percent in the Midwest and 0.6 percent in the Northeast.

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

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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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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