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The Census Bureau’s preliminary estimate for starts in buildings with five or more apartments in July came in at 229,000 units (at a seasonally adjusted annual rate), up 9.6 percent from the revised figure for June (revisions to the May and June numbers were minor).

The 3-month moving average has been very stable, hovering between 205,000 and 210,000 for the past quarter. Production in this range is a substantial improvement over the roughly 100,000 five-plus starts recorded in 2009 and 2010, or even the 167,000 last year. The industry was consistently hitting production targets in the neighborhood of 300,000 a year for the entire decade of 1997-2006, however, so there still appears to be substantial room for improvement before apartment construction returns to a long-run sustainable rate.

On a year-over-year basis, all the five-plus numbers in the Census Bureau’s new residential construction report for July were up strongly: the five-plus starts rate was up 30.1 percent from July of 2011; the seasonally adjusted rate at which new five-plus permits were issued (274,000) was up 47.3 percent; the number of unused five-plus permits in the pipeline (44,200) was up 24.8 percent, the seasonally adjusted number of five-plus units under construction (218,000) was up 32.1 percent; and the seasonally adjusted rate of five-plus completions (209,000) was up 47.2 percent.

This article was originally published on the NAHB blog, Eye on Housing.