Housing starts fell 22.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1,216,000 in March, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in a report issued Thursday.
The numbers, which reflect the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic now gripping the world, are up 1.4 percent year-over-year. Building permits for new construction dropped by 6.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1,353,000, while housing completions fell 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1,227,000. Annually, the numbers are up 5 percent for permits and down 9 percent for completions, respectively.
When analyzing single-family construction exclusively, the three metrics are also down — permits by 12 percent, starts by 17 percent and completions by 15 percent. While construction was initially expected to pick up strongly this spring, the prolonged coronavirus pandemic is putting a huge strain on the economy and housing market that will be reflected in months to come.