Figures released this morning showed US home building tumbled in April and permits fell, suggesting the housing market continued to tread water amid shortages of land and skilled labour.
Overall housing starts ran at an annualized pace of 1.28 million units, down 3.7 percent from the March level.
The revision to the March rate added 17,000 new housing starts to the previously reported total.
Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, edged up 0.1 percent to a rate of 894,000 units last month.
The bigger than expected decrease reflected a sharp pullback in multi-family starts, which plummeted by 11.3% to a rate of 393,000 in April after spiking by 13.6% to 443,000 in March.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts decreasing to a pace of 1.310 million units last month and permits declining to a 1.350 million-unit rate. The increase reflects a month-over-month decline in all regions except the South, where starts rose by 17.2%.
USA financial markets were little moved by the data.
Housing economists have more closely watched trends in single-family building, which has seen below-average building for several years. Home builders are struggling with higher prices for lumber and other building materials and a shortage of skilled laborers.
The Trump administration in April previous year imposed anti-subsidy duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber.
Permits for new single-family homes rose month over month in April from a revised annual rate of 851,000 in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 859,000.
Multifamily starts for buildings with five or more units increased by 7.2% year over year in April and fell by 12.6% compared with March.
In 2017, 1.202 million housing units were started, up 2.4% compared with 2016, and a 10-year high.