The rate of building permits and housing starts fell about 29 percent in February compared to the same month last year, the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of building permits for housing units was about 1.53 million in February, which is 2.5 percent below the revised January rate and 28.6 percent below the February 2006 estimate. This rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in building activity.

Single-family building permit authorizations were at a rate of about 1.09 million in February, down 3.1 percent compared to January and down 32.9 percent compared to February 2006.

Housing starts in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1.53 million, which is 9 percent above the revised January estimate and 28.5 percent below the February 2006 rate.

Single-family housing starts in February were at a rate of about 1.22 million, which is 10.3 percent above the January rate and 32.7 percent below the February 2006 rate. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was about 266,000, down 2.2 percent compared to January and 6.7 percent below the February 2006 rate.

Housing completions in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1.66 million, which is 9.4 percent below the revised January estimate and 18.4 percent below the February 2006 rate.

Single-family housing completions in February were at a rate of about 1.33 million, which is 11.3 percent below the January figure and 23.1 percent below the February 2006 rate. The February housing completions rate for units in buildings with five units or more was about 299,000, which is 2.6 percent below the January rate and 25.1 percent above the February 2006 rate.

Regionally, the rate of building permit authorizations fell about 41.6 percent in the Midwest, 30.7 percent in the Northeast, 26.7 percent in the West and 24.7 percent in the South in February compared to the February 2006 rate.

Month-to-month changes in seasonally adjusted statistics can show irregular movements, the agencies noted.

It can take four months to establish an underlying trend for building permit authorizations, five months for total starts, and six months for total completions. Statistics are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability and nonsampling error.

On average, the preliminary seasonally adjusted estimates of total building permits, housing starts and housing completions are revised about 1 percent, according to the report.

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