A measure of actual starts of houses, condominiums, and apartment construction. When an economy is going to take a downturn, the housing sector is the first to decline. The strength in housing starts means not only that the housing industry is healthy, but suggests strength in the overall economy. Housing starts figures are issued monthly by the Department of Commerce. Housing is a key interest-sensitive sector that usually leads the rest of the economy out of the recession. For the housing sector to be sustained, housing start figures need to be backed by building permits. Permits are considered a leading indicator of housing starts.