U.S. residential building permits reach 1 million, a 5-year high

The number of U.S. residential building permits issued in October surpassed 1 million, the highest level in five years, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Building permits in October were up 6.2% from the month before, reaching 1,034,000, government figures show. That's up 13.9% from October of last year. 

Data for the number of housing starts were not included with the report due to the partial government shutdown last month. The release of those figures has now been pushed to Dec. 18. 

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Nonetheless, the building permits data are a good barometer of the overall state of residential construction, which has been strong over the past year. 

Single-family home permits slowed to 620,000, the report said. Meanwhile, multi-family housing permits jumped 15.3% in October from the month before, reaching 414,000.  

The housing recovery in recent months has boosted home prices, spurred new construction and generated consumer spending at hardware stores such as Home Depot and Lowe's. 

But the pace appears to be slowing, economists said. 

"This was a mixed report," economists from IHS Global Insight wrote in a note. "Despite strong October numbers, a three-month moving average of both single- and multifamily permits shows that construction is slowing."

However, Patrick Newport and Stephanie Karol, the IHS economists, said it's unclear why housing permits have slowed recently. In a note, they said it's possible that a lack of developed land to build on is delaying the housing recovery.


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