The total number of residential permits issued nationwide during the first quarter of this year was a slight 1.4% lower than in January-March of 1999.
The total number of residential permits issued nationwide during the first quarter of this year was a slight 1.4% lower than in January-March of 1999. These are still reasonably healthy numbers in light of the fact that mortgage rates were considerably lower during the spring of last year than they were in the first quarter of 2000, and the housing market was still gaining momentum. During March 1999 the nationwide average for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 7.02%; by March of 2000 that average had risen to 8.24%.
Permit totals for five of the nine regions of the country were higher through three months of this year than over the first quarter of 1999, despite the slight overall decline in the national permit volume. The number of permits issued in the largest region of the nation - the South Atlantic - faded 6.8% between the first three months of last year and the first quarter of 2000. The West South Central states lost the most in percentage terms of any region in the country through March of this year, and the New England and Rocky Mountain regions also lost ground when compared to their 1999 year-to-date pace. However, the overall impact of declines in these three regions of the country was nearly offset by solid gains throughout the Midwest and Middle Atlantic regions, and in portions of the Pacific Coast.
During the first three months of 2000, the number of residential units permitted for construction rose from the level of a year earlier in 24 states and fell in 26 states (and the District of Columbia). The losses were most severe in the South, with 6 of the 8 states in the South Atlantic region (Georgia and Maryland being the positive exceptions) issuing fewer residential permits over three months of 2000 than during January-March of 1999, and all four states in the West South Central region (Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas) recording fewer permits in the first three months of this year than over the same period of 1999. Double-digit over-the-year increases were registered in 10 of the 24 growth states. Among the larger states getting off to a very good great start this year were Michigan (+15.7%), California (+15.6%), Colorado (+11.8%), Illinois (+9.7%), and New Jersey (+9.4%). The sharpest declines among large states so far in 2000 have been recorded in permit volume for Florida (-14.5%) and Texas (-13.8%).
Even with the steep decline through the first three months of this year, Florida remains the volume leader with 35,222 housing permits issued through March. With 33,280 permits issued so far this year, California has overtaken Texas (32,822 residential permits) as the second largest state for homebuilding as measured by total volume. The mix differs considerably among these top three homebuilding states, however, with permits for single-family homes making up 83.2% of the Texas total, 73.3% of the Florida total, but only 66.3% of the California total through three months of 2000.
Building Materials Price Inflation
Consumer Confidence by Region