Building permits in May rose 3.7% from a revised April total and 3.9% from the May 2002 level. May’s growth was led by permits for multi-unit housing, with structures of five or more units rising 18%, while permits for single-family homes rose just .3%. For the first time in five months, both single- and multi-unit permits totaled 3% more than in the same period of 2002.

Housing starts climbed a seasonally adjusted 6% from April’s revised figure to May but were down by 1% from May 2002. Year-to-date starts were up 1% from the first five months of 2002 as a 3% rise in single-family starts overcame a 4% decline in five or more unit starts.

Industrial production (IP) at mines, utilities, and factories rose .1% in May, following drops of .6% in both April and March. IP was .8% lower than in May 2002, with factory output down by 1%. Output of construction supplies rose .3% in May but was 3.6% below the 2002 level.

Factory capacity utilization stood at 72.6% compared to 73.9% a year before and an average of 80.2% in 1972-2002, suggesting that demand for factory construction could remain dormant for quite some time.