Two of the three measures of residential construction activity used by the Census Bureau fell slightly in March.  Fewer permits were issued and fewer homes reached completion than in February while housing starts rose slightly.

The Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report that residential building permits were issued in March at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 990,000 units.  This is 2.4 percent below the revised February rate of 1,014,000 units and 11.2 percent higher than the rate of 890,000 units issued in March 2013.

Permits for single family houses were issued at a rate of 592,000, 0.5 percent above the February estimate of 589,000.  Permits for construction of units in buildings with five or more units were at the rate of 370,000 units compared to 402,000 in February.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis an estimated there were 83,000 permits issued compared to 70,500 in February.  Single-family permits accounted for 50,800 of the total compared to 41,200 the previous month.

Housing starts were up 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000 units from a revised February estimate of 920,000 units.   This number is 5.9 percent below starts a year earlier which were at a rate of 1,005,000 units.  Single-family starts were at a rate of 635,000, up 6.0 percent month over month and starts in multifamily units were at a rate of 292,000 compared to 311,000 in February.

On an unadjusted basis there were 79,100 housing starts of which 54,000 were single family.  In February the corresponding numbers were 63,300 and 41,200.

Housing completions were at a rate of 872,000, 0.2 percent below February's rate of 874,000 and 7.7 percent higher than a year earlier when completions were running at 810,000 units.  Single family units were completed at a 602,000 pace, down 3.8 percent and multifamily completions rose 7.9 percent to a rate of 258,000.

Completions were estimated to number 67,500 on an unadjusted basis compared to 60,400 the previous month.  Single-family units accounted for 46,900 and 44,000 of those totals respectively.

Permitting rose 33.3 percent in the Northeast compared to February and 36.0 percent from March 2013 Housing starts also jumped, up 30.7 percent for the month and 22.3 percent for the year.  Unit completions were unchanged from February and down 33.3 percent on an annual basis.

In the Midwest permits were up 26.0 percent month-over-month and 18.7 percent year-over-year.  Housing starts rose 65.5 percent from February and were 2.9 percent above the same period in 2013.  There were 14.1 percent fewer completions than in the previous month but 15.5 percent more than a year earlier.

There was a 17.1 percent decrease in the rate of permits issued in the South in March and permits were down 1.1 percent from a year earlier.  Housing starts fell 9.1 percent and 13.9 percent for the two respective periods.  Completions increased 1.3 percent from February and were up 26.7 percent from a year earlier.

The rate of permitting in the West was unchanged from a month earlier but was 21.4 percent higher than in March 2013. Starts were down 4.3 percent and 3.2 percent and completions rose 7.4 percent from February but were down 10.2 percent year-over-year.

At the end of the reporting period there were 108,000 permits outstanding for which construction had not yet started compared to 105,500 in February.  There were 709,300 units under construction.