Housing starts slipped in March, falling 6.8% from a revised February estimate to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,215,000, still 9.2% above the March 2016 rate of 1,113,000, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Tuesday. The estimate fell within the range expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg.


Single-family housing starts in March were at a rate of 821,000, 6.2% below the revised February figure of 875,000 but 9.3% ahead of a year earlier. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was down 6.1% to 385,000, still 9.1% ahead of a year earlier.


Permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,260,000, 3.6% above the revised February rate of 1,216,000 and 17.0% above the March 2016 rate of 1,077,000. Single-family authorizations in March were at a rate of 823,000, 1.1% below the revised February figure of 832,000 and 13.5% ahead of a year earlier. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 401,000 in March, up 18.3% sequentially and 26.1% year-over-year.


Privately-owned housing completions in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,205,000, 3.2% above the revised February estimate of 1,168,000 and 13.4% above the March 2016 rate of 1,063,000. Single-family housing completions in March were at a rate of 819,000, 7.9% above the revised February rate of 759,000. The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 374,000, down 4.6% sequentially but 15.4% ahead of a year earlier.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, was not impressed with the report. “A major housing shortage exists in this country. It is therefore disappointing to witness in March the continued lackluster performance in new-home building, which was the second lowest activity over the past six months.”