The rate of building permit authorizations for new housing units fell 21.7 percent in May compared to the same month last year, and new housing starts were down 24.2 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today.

Housing units authorized by building permits in May were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.5 million — this rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in building activity.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of single-family building-permit authorizations in May was at a rate of 1.06 million in May, down 27.7 percent compared to May 2006. The rate of building permits for units in structures with five or more units reached 379,000 in May, up 1.1 percent compared to May 2006.

Overall building-permit activity from January to May fell 25.7 percent compared to the same period last year, according to data that is not seasonally adjusted.

The rate of housing starts in May dropped to a rate of 1.47 million, and the rate of single-family housing starts fell 26 percent from the same month last year, to 1.17 million. The May rate for starts of units with five units or more was 271,000, down 13.1 percent from May 2006.

Housing completions in May were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million, down 19.3 percent from the May 2006 rate. And this rate has dropped in every month this year. The rate of single-family completions dropped 19.3 percent year-over-year in May, and the rate of completions for units in structures with five or more units fell 22.5 percent year-over-year.

According to January-April 2007 building-permit data that is not seasonally adjusted, Texas leads the nation in housing authorizations with 61,179, followed by Florida with 42,430, California with 41,324, North Carolina with 30,211 and Georgia with 29,329.

At the bottom of the list are Alaska with 577, Vermont with 633, North Dakota with 680, Rhode Island with 713, and Washington, D.C., with 860.

The agencies noted that month-to-month changes in seasonally adjusted statistics can show irregular movements, and it can take three months to establish an underlying trend for building permit authorizations, four 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, the agencies reported.

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