The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued its monthly press release on May 16th regarding residential construction in April. Privately-owned housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 717,000, up 2.6% from March, and up 29.9% from April a year ago. This rate is up only marginally since February 2009, when housing construction hit rock bottom and the annual rate was only 583,000. Before the recession, the housing starts rate was well over 2,000,000. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of building permits, an indicator for future construction, was at 715,000. This rate was down 7% from March, but chalk the decrease up to the volatile apartment category, which dropped 23%. The building permit rate was also 23% above the April 2011 estimate of 578,000.