The rate of privately owned housing starts in April dropped 16.1 percent from a year ago to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million, according to a joint announcement from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Despite the decline, April’s rate — which projects that month’s total over a 12-month period and adjusts for seasonal fluctuations in activity — was up approximately 2.5 percent from March, according to statistics.

The agencies reported that the rate of single-family housing starts at 1.23 million was up approximately 1.6 percent from March.

Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.43 million in April, down nearly 9 percent from March and 28 percent lower than the April 2006 level.

Single-family authorizations in April were at a rate of 1.06 million, 6 percent below March.

As for completions, the seasonally adjusted annual rate for privately owned units sank to 1.52 million last month, down 5.8 percent from March and 26 percent below the year-ago level.

Single-family housing completions in April were at a rate of 1.26 million, down 3.4 percent from March.

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. Statistics are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability, as well as nonsampling error, including bias and variance from response, nonreporting and undercoverage.

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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