Overall starts during April of this year were at an annualized level 6.5% better than during April 1999. Although single-family homes were started at a rate 7.8% below the peak level recorded during the final month of last year, they were better than 6% ahead of the level for the same month of 1999. And, despite recent-month losses, total multi-family starts this April were almost 2% ahead of where they stood at year-end 1999 and about 7% above the comparable total for April of last year.
Although no significant slow-down in housing market activity is apparent in the latest starts report, an analysis of longer-term trends does provide evidence that at least the single-family sector of the overall market has been impacted by higher mortgage rates and greater uncertainty about the future pace of personal income growth. Additionally, single-family home sales figures weakened considerably over the first quarter of the year. Regionally, two of the four regions recorded declines in housing starts between March and April of 2000. The starts pace in the Northeast faded 10.1% over the month to its lowest level since October 1999. And overall starts in the South fell 6.2% over the latest two months to their lowest annualized pace since last November—but still 4.4% ahead of their April 1999 total. The number of housing units started in the Midwest was estimated to have risen 12.4% (sea- sonally adjusted) between March and April, while total starts in the West rose 18.2% over the month.