March starts sit just below the million mark

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000, housing starts failed to break the million mark again in March, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

March's rate is 2.8% above the upwardly revised February estimate of 920,000 -- a 1.9% rise instead of the initially reported 0.2% decline -- but 5.9% below year-ago levels of 1,005,000.

Single-family housing starts came in at a  rate of 635,000, which is 6.0% above the revised February estimate of 599,000.

Building permits presented a slightly rosier picture, with the rate for March weighing in at 990,000. That's 2.4% below February's 1,014,000 permits but 11.2% better than last year's estimate.

March's housing starts are below the expectations of many economists, who have attributed the recent weakness in the housing market to harsh winter weather conditions, labor and lot shortages, and cost of materials.

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