Housing starts refer to the number of homes that broke ground during the month. The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development track starts – along with building permits and housing completions – as part of their monthly New Residential Construction report. According to the most recent release, privately-owned housing starts were virtually unchanged in May from one month earlier. However, regional results show the number of single-family homes that broke ground in the South, West, and Northeast actually increased over the month before. In fact, home construction spiked 12.7 percent in the Northeast alone. But overall results suffered, despite solid gains elsewhere, due to a nearly 15 percent drop in the Midwest. Still, analysts point to the fact that authorized building permits increased and home builders are feeling more confident as evidence that, despite not gaining ground in May, residential construction is still poised for continued gains. And a closer look at the numbers reveals that both housing starts and building permits are, in fact, about 10 percent higher than they were last year. New residential construction is an important indicator for the housing market because, as more new homes are built, the total number of homes available for sale increases which helps moderate prices, balance the market, and provide more choices for buyers. More here.