Residential construction falls to rate of 975,000

May housing starts fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 975,000, 3.3 percent below a revised April 2008 rate of 1,008,000.

That figure is 32.1 percent below the revised May 2007 estimate of 1,436,000. Single-family housing starts in May were at a rate of 674,000; this is 1 percent below the April figure of 681,000.

The number of housing completions in May rose, however, 11.6 percent to 1,132,000. Still, the number of completions is 26.9 percent below a revised May 2007 rate of 1,549,000.

The number of building permits issued also fell, down 1.3 percent to 969,000, month-over-month. Single-family housing permits fell 4 percent compared with last month.

Most recently, the National Association of Home Builders announced that an index measuring builder confidence fell to its lowest level ever, to a figure of 18.

“Clearly, conditions in the housing market remain very weak, and our builder members are not seeing any signs of improvement,” said NAHB chief economist David Seiders. “Indeed, the continuing erosion of employment and consumer confidence/sentiment, coupled with surging energy costs, falling house prices and rising home mortgage foreclosures, pose considerable downside risks to the economy and our housing forecast.”