U.S. housing starts were virtually unchanged in May, inching down 0.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.16 million, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Commerce Department. Overall permit issuance edged up 0.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.14 million.

“Despite May’s relatively flat report, our builders are telling us that the market is improving and consumers are more ready and willing to make a home purchase,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill.

“Builder confidence rose this month and single-family housing starts are up roughly 10 percent from a year ago — two indicators that we can expect further growth in housing production this year,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “However, builders continue to face supply-side constraints, such as shortages of buildable lots and labor.”

Single-family housing starts inched up 0.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 764,000 units in May while multifamily production edged down 1.2 percent to 400,000 units.

Combined single- and multifamily starts were mixed in May, rising 14.4 percent in the West and 1.5 percent in the South. The Midwest posted a 2.5 percent loss and the Northeast registered a 33.3 percent loss. However, single-family production rose in three out of the four regions — the Northeast, South and West.

Single-family permits fell 2 percent to a rate of 726,000 while multifamily permits rose 5.9 percent to 412,000.

Permit issuance increased 15.3 percent in the West. Meanwhile, the South, Northeast and Midwest posted respective losses of 1.4 percent, 7.8 percent and 9.2 percent.

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