According to data released on June 16 by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, building permits and housing starts picked up in May 2009 after sharp declines in April.

Single-family building permit authorizations increased to 408,000 in May, a 7.9 percent increase over April's rate of 378,000. Permits for units in buildings with five units or more declined slightly, to 92,000—a 70 percent decline from May 2008. Overall, building permits for privately owned housing units increased 4 percent in May, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 518,000 from the previous month's rate of 498,000. However, this is still 47 percent below the rate of 978,000 permits authorized a year ago.

Single-family housing starts in May rose 7.5 percent above April's rate, to 401,000; starts of units in buildings with five or more units were at a rate of 124,000, a 77 percent increase from the previous month. Overall starts of privately owned housing increased 17.2 percent over April's starts, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 532,000. This is still 45.2 percent below the rate of 971,000 housing starts in May 2008.

Completions of single-family housing in May fell 9.4 percent from April's rate, to 491,000, and completions of units in buildings of five or more units rose 11.7 percent over April's rate, to 314,000. Privately owned housing completions overall were 3.3 percent below the previous month's rate and 28.8 percent below completions of a year ago.

Read what MarketWatch.com and The New York Times have to say about the latest residential construction statistics.