Single-family housing starts and building-permit authorizations hit the lowest level since 1982 in September, with total starts and permits dipping to levels not seen since 1991, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau announced today.

Single-family housing starts hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 544,000 in September. This rate — a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, accounting for seasonal fluctuations in construction activity — was the lowest since August 1982, when it dipped to 523,000.

The single-family starts rate is down about 41.9 percent year-over-year in September, down 12 percent compared to August 2008, and has fallen 70.2 percent from its all-time peak of 1.82 million in January 2006.

The rate of total housing starts, at 817,000 in September, was the lowest since 798,000 in January 1991 and was down about 31.1 percent compared to September 2007, 6.3 percent compared to August 2008, and has fallen 64.1 percent from its January 2006 peak.

Meanwhile, the rate of single-family building-permit authorizations, at 532,000 in September, dropped 38.9 percent compared to September 2007, was down 3.8 percent compared to August 2008, dropped 70.4 percent compared to its September 2005 peak, and was the lowest level since the August 1982 rate of 523,000.

The rate of total building-permit authorizations was 786,000 in September, down 38.4 percent compared to September 2007, down 8.3 percent compared to August 2008, down 65.3 percent, and was the lowest level since the January 1991 rate of 786,000.

Regionally, the rate of total permit authorizations dropped about 44.6 percent in the West, 37.3 percent in the South, 37.1 percent in the Midwest and 32.6 percent in the Northeast year-over-year in September, while the rate of total starts dropped 40.4 percent in the West, 32.5 percent in the South, 21.8 percent in the Midwest and 18.2 percent in the Northeast.

David Seiders, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders said of the results, said in a statement about the construction stats, "While lower than generally expected, today’s numbers are not surprising in light of our latest builder surveys (see Inman News) and evidence of persistently high inventories of new and existing homes, weakening home prices, falling payroll employment and declining consumer sentiment."


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