Adobe Stock/Greg Pickens

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly announced privately owned housing starts in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,569,000, which is 9.5% below the revised March estimate of 1,733,000 but 67.3% above the April 2020 rate of 938,000.

Single‐family housing starts last month were at a rate of 1,087,000, or 13.4% below the revised March figure of 1,255,000. Plus, the April rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 470,000.

“Overall, April’s dip in housing starts isn’t all that surprising given the shortages in lumber and labor that are hitting the country,” says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree. “While these issues present a notable challenge, both builder sentiment and demand for new homes remain strong, suggesting the housing market won’t go belly up anytime soon.”

Odeta Kushi, deputy chief economist at First American, agrees. “Prior to the pandemic, builders were faced with a lack of construction workers, lack of buildable lots, and restrictive regulatory requirements. Those headwinds remain, but now builders must also grapple with surging lumber prices,” he says. “The rapid increase in the cost of lumber and supply bottlenecks are increasing the cost of building and delaying projects.”

April’s housing completions were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,449,000, which is 4.4% below the revised March estimate of 1,515,000 but 21.7% above the April 2020 rate of 1,191,000. Single‐family housing completions last month were at a rate of 1,045,000, or 0.1% above the revised March rate of 1,044,000. The April rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 401,000.

Housing units authorized by building permits in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,760,000, which is 0.3% above the revised March rate of 1,755,000 and 60.9% above the April 2020 rate of 1,094,000. Single‐family authorizations last month were at a rate of 1,149,000, or 3.8% below the revised March figure of 1,194,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 559,000.

“Single-family permits have outpaced starts in three out of the four months in 2021, including in April, with permits declining by a lesser 3.8%,” says Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. “This suggests to us that some of the weakness in starts may be noise, and we expect a partial rebound in the next report.”