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Housing Starts Tumble Badly in Latest Data

Phil Hall
Apr 19, 2016
Housing starts took an abrupt dive last month, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)

Housing starts took an abrupt dive last month, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).

Single-family housing starts in March were at a rate of 764,000, a 9.2 percent drop from the revised February figure of 841,000. Privately-owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,089,000, which is 8.8 percent below the revised February estimate of 1,194,000—but on a positive note, last month’s level is 14.2 percent above the March 2015 rate of 954,000.

Last month’s single-family authorizations were at a rate of 727,000, a 1.2 percent downturn from February’s level of 736,000. Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,086,000, a 7.7 percent slide from the revised February rate of 1,177,000 but a 4.6 percent uptick from the March 2015 estimate of 1,038,000.

“This is a disappointing report," said Genworth Mortgage Insurance Chief Economist Tian Liu. "We still expect strong housing demand and low inventory in the market for previously owned homes to lift single-family housing starts, later in the year.”

Single-family housing completions in March were at a rate of 734,000, a slight 0.3 percent dip from the revised February rate of 736,000. But there was a sliver of good news in the data: privately-owned housing completions in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,061,000, 3.5 percent above the revised February estimate of 1,025,000 and 31.6 percent above the March 2015 rate of 806,000.

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