Homebuilders got busier in May as the U.S. economy began to reopen.
Housing starts rebounded 4.3%, a turnaround from the huge double-digit percentage declines in April and March. But it was far shy of what economists were expecting, and it was down more than 23% on a year-on-year basis. Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, was flat.
But those numbers could improve. Permits for future home construction bounced back 14.4% in May. That lends support to economists' expectations that the housing market will lead the economy out of a recession.
What's more, there's pent-up demand. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday that applications for home loans rose 4% last week to their highest level in roughly 11 years. Spurring that surge was a drop in mortgage rates to a record low.
But with nearly 20 million people unemployed in the U.S., a full housing recovery might still be a long wait.