Housing starts in U.S. fell 4.8% in May. Total starts dropped 4.8 percent to a 708,000 annual pace in May from a revised 744,000 rate in the prior month that was the highest since October 2008, today’s report showed. Building permits increased 7.9 percent to a 780,000 annual rate, reflecting gains in single-family and multifamily homes.

How strong are these numbers and what has it been like historically? I’m posting two historical charts on both housing starts and building permits.

Since 1960s housing starts have been cyclical between 2,270,000 and 850,000 units. Until the latest collapse (2006-2009) there has been 4 consecutive troughs and peaks. 1966,1975, 1982 and 1991 were depressed housing market years with housing starts reaching 850K level and 1972,1978, 1984 and 2006 were strong housing market years reaching 2,270,000 level. What is different in the latest housing collapse (2006-now)? First, the market overshoot the 850K number, second it has taken longer to rebound when compared with the previous V-shaped reversals/recoveries.

It is true that building permits are rising and this is definitely positive. However, we should see the housing starts back above 850K threshold to be more optimistic about the U.S. housing market.