Housing starts and building permits sank nationwide in April for the third consecutive month, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly announced today.

Privately owned housing starts in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.85 million, which represents an 11.1 percent drop from a year ago when the rate was 2.08 million.

The seasonally adjusted rate is used to project a monthly total over a 12-month period, accounting for seasonal fluctuations.

Single-family housing starts in April were at a rate of 1.54 million; this is about 5.6 percent below the March figure of 1.63 million. The April rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 262,000.

Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.98 million, approximately 8 percent below the April 2005 estimate of 2.16 million.

Single-family authorizations in April were at a rate of 1.5 million; this is approximately 4 percent below the March figure of 1.56 million. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 411,000 in April.

Privately owned housing completions in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.07 million. Although this is nearly 6.6 percent below the revised March estimate of 2.22 million, it is approximately 8 percent above the April 2005 rate of 1.92 million.

Single-family housing completions were at a rate of 1.78 million in April; this is about 6 percent below the March figure of 1.89 million. The April rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 267,000.

The 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.

Statistics 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, the agencies reported.

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