WASHINGTON — The level of housing starts fell 3.3% in May to a 975,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate, a larger drop than expected that reflects a small decline in single-family starts and a larger decline in multifamily starts, data released yesterday by the Commerce Department showed.

The level of housing starts was the lowest since the 921,000 level reported in March 1991.

Single-family starts fell 1.0% in May to 674,000, the lowest level since January 1991. Multifamily starts fell 8.0% based on a Market News International calculation.

Analysts had expected a slightly smaller decline in total starts to a 980,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate.

Building permits fell 1.3% to a 969,000 rate in May, while homes permitted but not started fell 0.8%, an indication that builders have reduced future building plans even further.

Housing completions rose 11.6% to a 1.132 million rate, but those under construction fell 1.9%, again suggesting that builders continue to cut back on supply in the pipeline in the face of the still-large inventory overhang.

— Market News International

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