(MENAFN - Saudi Press Agency) U.S. housing starts slowed in November following three consecutive months of gains, but permits for future home construction hit their highest level in more than four years, pointing to underlying strength in the housing market, the government reported Wednesday.
The Commerce Department said builders began construction of homes at an annual rate of 861,000 last month, 3 percent less than October‚„s annual rate of 888,000, which was the fastest since mid-2008.
Superstorm Sandy likely slowed housing starts in the northeastern United States. Starts fell 5.2 percent in the region in November compared with the previous month. Compared to a year earlier, starts were down almost 26 percent in the northeast, the only region to record a drop in the past year.
Still, overall construction remains healthy. Housing starts were 21.6 percent higher last month than a year ago, and building permits‚"which lead housing starts by about a month‚"increased 3.6 percent in November to an annual rate of 899,000 units, the most since July 2008.
The housing market has regained some momentum after a historic collapse that pushed the economy into its worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Housing starts now are far above the annual rate of 478,000 seen in early 2009, the recession low. But they are still significantly below the 1.5 million annual rate that economists consider healthy.