New residential construction rose significantly in March as builders started more multi-unit dwellings.
Housing starts rose 7% from upwardly revised February figures to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,036,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The rate was 46.7% higher than March 2012.
Housing starts jumped higher than economists polled by Bloomberg News expected, after the Commerce Department said builders started many more units in February than previously thought.
The department revised February starts to an annual rate of 968,000 from 917,000.
As home prices rose last year and continued their upward trajectory this year, builders have increasingly looked to raise money and put up new homes, decisions that will boost jobs in construction as well as related industries. Last week, Arizona builder Taylor Morrison Home Corp. went public.
Southern California's housing recovery: An interactive map
But while multifamily building was up in March, single-family housing starts dropped 4.8% compared with the previous month.
Building permits, an indication of future building, also were down, dropping 3.9% from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 902,000, although they were up 17.3% from March of last year.
As home builders look to capitalize on the low inventory that has lifted prices, they are racing to catch up after years of anemic building.
The National Assn. of Home Builders said Monday that builder confidence fell this month, the third consecutive decline. Developers cited rising construction costs and the lack of developed lots as concerns.
Still, builders expressed growing optimism in future sales, as expectations for the next six months reached the highest level in more than six years.
Compared with February, housing starts fell in the Northeast but rose in the Midwest, South and West.
Housing starts, building permits climb in February
Construction spending rises, fueled by gains in home building
Home builder Taylor Morrison to go public amid housing recovery
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