Official name: Housing Starts and Building Permits
What exactly? Measures privately-owned housing units started (commonly known as just housing starts). Also measures privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits (commonly known as just building permits). Geographical breakdown provided for both starts and permits.
Source: Census Bureau
Released when? Around the 18th of the month at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Data for prior month.
Market importance: Some. Sometimes moves markets. Considered good leading indicators of home sales and spending in general. Starts used to predict the residential investment portion of gross domestic product.
Other notes:(a) Permits typically translate into starts in roughly three to four months -- they are also a component of the leading economic indicators index. (b) Single-family starts typically account for roughly 74% of all starts. Multi-family units account for the rest.