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First Quarter Housing Starts Look Strong
A Gain of 1.9 Percent Recorded in March


Revised number for February gives a boost to housing starts for Q1-2018. Permits in that month were also adjusted upward.

When all the dust settled, the amount of housing starts in the first three months of this year gave builders a reason to cheer as they saw an 8.0 percent gain over the same period last year. Both sectors showed vigor: single-family up 7.0 percent and multifamily up 10.2 percent.

The big factor was that after reviewing February's loss, it was deemed to be only half as much as previously reported. In March, starts rose 1.9 percent on a robust showing from the multifamily sector, which improved 14.4 percent. However single-family starts fell 3.7 percent.

"The improved data appear to be mostly due to stronger growth in the West, where starts through the first three months of the year are up a whopping 34.2 percent from last year and single-family starts are up 26.5 percent," stated Mark Vitner, senior economist for the Wells Fargo Securities Economics Group. "The West is where economic growth has been the strongest and homebuilding has generally lagged behind population and employment growth. With home prices soaring, governments have become more proactive at trying to pave the way for more residential development, even in California."

The Northeast also recorded good numbers, up 9.0 percent for the first quarter, but the East and Midwest posted losses, a circumstance Vitner partially blamed on the severe winter weather. The South's overall numbers were off slightly at -0.5 percent but their single-family starts gained 2.7 percent.

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August 25, 2019, 5:30 am PDT

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