Housing starts bounce up 3.5% in May

With seemingly nowhere to go but up, housing starts in May increased 3.5% from the upwardly revised April figure to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000. Single-family starts increased 3.7% to a rate of 419,000.

The figures had easy comparisons from a month ago, when the Commerce Department's New Residential Construction report posted depressing numbers. While the month-to-month gains are a welcome sign for the industry, year-over-year statistics are negative -- total starts were down 3.4%, and single-family starts were down 8.9%.

The May numbers were slightly higher than those of 2009, the slowest year of housing starts on record. 

On a regional basis, the West had the best numbers across the board, showing an 18.1% month-to-month gain and a 20.2% year-over-year gain. The West also showed a 15.6% improvement in single-family starts compared with April.

The Northeast struggled the most of the four regions. Year-over-year starts dropped 18.3%, and year-over-year single-family starts dropped 32.1%, according to the data released today.

Building permits, meanwhile, increased to a rate of 612,000 in May, up 8.7% from April, and up 5.2% compared with May 2010.