U.S. housing starts backtracked in March, falling 6.8% even as building permits eked out some progress.
Total housing starts came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,215,000 last month, down from February's revised estimate of 1,303,000. However, this is still 9.2% above the March 2016 rate of 1,113,000.
Single-family starts fell at a slightly less dramatic rate (down 6.2% for the month), coming in at a rate of 821,000. That's down from February's revised rate of 875,000.
More optimistically, an increase in building permits pointed to the possibility of a speedy recovery. Permits clocked in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,260,000, up 3.6% over the revised February rate of 1,216,000 and 17.0% above March 2016.
Single-family permits numbered 823,000, however, which is 1.1% below the revised February figure of 832,000.
Regionally, the Northeast was the only area of the U.S. that actually saw major month-over-month progress in March: a 12.9% boost in starts (though this is down 14.9% year-over-year).
The Midwest and West got hit the hardest since February, down 16.2% and 16.0%, respectively.