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California recorded 9,291 housing permits in May, up 44 percent from May 2020 when much of the state was still locked down. Total permits in 2021 year to date are 33 percent above the same months in 2020.

May’s total of 5,295 single family permits was barely above the recent average for the month, in contrast to the first four months of the year which all saw permit activity well above their recent averages. The figure was in line with the second half of 2020, but a bit disappointing considering that March and April were so strong. Single family activity has rebounded since last spring’s pandemic-driven slump, as prices have risen sharply in most of the state’s metropolitan areas. The Inland Empire, Sacramento, and Los Angeles areas had the most permits as usual.

California builders recorded 3,996 multifamily permits in May. This figure is well below the pre-pandemic average for the month, again a bit disappointing as permits in 2021 to date had been running somewhat above their recent averages. Los Angeles County permitted the most units as usual, followed distantly by San Bernardino and Santa Clara counties.

Nonresidential construction permit activity has been very weak every month this year except March. May’s total of $1.041 billion was above January and April, but below any other month since 2013. Every major category except industrial continues to have very limited activity.


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