Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly announced the following new residential construction statistics for March 2019:
Housing starts in March fell 0.3% from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,139,000, 14.2% behind the March 2018 rate of 1,327,000, the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly announced Friday.
Single‐family housing starts in March were at a rate of 785,000; 0.4% below the revised February figure of 788,000 and 11% behind a year earlier. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 337,000, down 3.4% sequentially and 21.8% year-over-year.
Building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,269,000, 1.7% below the revised February rate of 1,291,000 and 7.8% below March 2018. Single‐family authorizations in March were at a rate of 808,000, 1.1% below the revised February figure of 817,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 425,000 in March, down 2.7% from February and 10% from a year earlier.
Housing completions in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,313,000, 1.9% below the revised February estimate of 1,338,000 but 6.8% above the March 2018 rate of 1,229,000. Single‐family housing completions in March were at a rate of 938,000; 11.9% above the revised February rate of 838,000. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 364,000, down 25.1% from February but up 2.2% from a year earlier.
Joel Kan, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s AVP of Economic and Industry Forecasting, sized up the numbers. “Housing construction disappointed in March and was mainly held down by an underperforming number for single-family starts. At 785,000 units, single-family construction was essentially flat from a downwardly revised total for February, and was overall well below the 2018 pace of around 870,000 units.
"Despite a strong economy and job market, which continues to spur housing demand, home builders still face challenges such as labor shortages and high labor costs. These headwinds continue to slow the pace of construction, and on a year-over-year basis, single-family starts have fallen in five of the last six months. While severe winter weather in the Midwest likely led to the significant drop in that region, the overall building trend is not heading into the right direction. There needs to be more new inventory to satisfy the solid buyer demand in most of the country, especially for the lower-priced, first-time buyer segment of the market.”