Numbers released by the Commerce Department Wednesday suggest that last year’s rapid housing recovery is continuing to slow.
Housing starts rose 2.8% in March to a seasonally adjusted rate of 946,000. This is higher than the month before, but 5.9% lower than the rate one year earlier. Housing starts measure actual groundbreakings on new construction and are thus a timely measure of market conditions.
Other data also suggest a slowdown. Building permits, a good indicator of the future, were 990,000 (seasonally adjusted) in March. That’s 2.4% below the revised February rate, the fourth drop over the last five months.
Yesterday’s National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index showed builder confidence a bit slack; the index rose just 1 point in March to 47. A score of 50 or higher indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
However, the March data shows starts of single-family homes at 635,000 (seasonally adjusted), a rate that is 6% above February’s revised figure. Construction of single-family homes dropped in January but has been steadily rising each month since.