Steel Markets

Housing Construction Slowed by Coronavirus

Written by Sandy Williams

Housing starts plummeted 22.3 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,216,000, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development. Single-family starts declined 17.5 percent and multifamily starts of five units or more plunged 32 percent.

“Single-family starts began an expected, virus-related decline in March,” said National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Construction activity is expected to fall as virus mitigation efforts result in increased unemployment, economic uncertainty and lost business activity.”

Housing starts fell by double digits across all regions with the Northeast hit the hardest, falling 42.5 percent on a month-over-month basis. Construction of single-family homes plummeted in three regions, but gained 6.1 percent in the West compared to the previous month.

Construction starts fell in March despite the majority of states allowing home building to continue during the pandemic as an essential business activity.

Building permit authorizations also slipped in March, falling 6.8 percent from February to a SAAR of 1,353,000. Permit authorizations for single-family homes dropped 12 percent, but permits for buildings of five units or more rose 5.2 percent.

Regional month-over-month authorizations fell across the board, but on a yearly basis increased in the South and West.

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