Housing starts were way up in April, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 672,000, according to the Census. That's a 41 percent increase over the pace of housing starts in April 2009. Building permits were issued at an annual rate of 606,000 units, an increase of about 16 percent over April 2009.
The increase in building permits conveys the implication that a housing recovery is really happening. At this time last year, housing permits were at their nadir, so a modest increase isn't something to get ecstatic about. Still, permits have been issued at an annual rate above 600,000 for eight of the last nine months. That's hard to ignore.
But keep in mind that, as recently as June 2008, permits were being issued at an annual rate of almost 1.2 million units. Now we're about half that level.