Builders picked up even fewer hammers last month, as residential construction fell to new lows.
According to numbers released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, overall housing starts fell 16.8% on a monthly basis in January to a seasonally adjusted level of 466,000 units. That represents a drop of 56.2% compared to the same month one year ago.
Single-family starts fared about the same, sliding 12.2% in January compared to December 2008 to arrive at a seasonally adjusted pace of 347,000. That figure also qualifies as a significant (-53.7%) reduction in new construction activity compared to January 2007.
Permits, an important indicator of future construction (and economic activity), followed a similar path. Total permits slipped 4.8% on a monthly basis in January to a seasonally adjusted level of 521,000 units. Compared to the same period last year, that figure qualifies as a 50.5% drop.
Single-family permits also dipped lower, falling 8% compared to December 2008 to a seasonally adjusted rate of 335,000 units. That, too, is down 50.4% over January 2007, meaning that builders are currently pulling half the permits they were one year ago.
Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.