The leading construction indicators performed generally as analysts had predicted in April, stepping back from March's solid increases in both permits and housing starts.  Both sectors had been driven that month by surges in multi-family construction.

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development say that permits for private residential construction dipped by 1.8 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,352,000.  The March figure, originally estimated at 1,354,000 units, was revised up to 1,377,000.  The April estimate was 7.7 percent higher than that of April 2017.

The month's results landed mid-range among forecasts from analysts polled by Econoday.  They had been looking for numbers ranging from 1,325,000 to 1,370,000 units.   Their consensus was 1,350,000.  

Single family permits rose 0.9 percent from March to an annual rate of 859,000 compared to the revised (from 840,000 units) 851,000 units the previous month.  Single family permits were running 7.9 percent ahead of the pace a year earlier.  Permits for construction in buildings with five or more units fell back by 7.4 percent to a rate of 450,000 units after surging by 23 percent in March.  Multi-family permits were up 6.4 percent year-over-year.

On a non-adjusted basis there were 118,600 permits issued in April compared to 117,600 in March.  Single family permits totaled 78,600 compared to the previous 75,800.

For the year-to-date through the end of April, the total of permits issued is estimated at 424,100 compared to 389,800 for the same period in 2017.  This is an increase of 8.8 percent.

Housing starts retreated by 3.7 percent from the March estimate of 1,336,000 to an annual rate of 1,287,000 units in April.  This is 10.5 percent higher than a year earlier.  The March start rate was an upward revision of an originally reported 1,319,000 annual units.

The Econoday analysts had anticipated starts would be at a consensus rate of 1,324,000 units. The range of predictions was 1,260,000 to 1,350,000 units.

Single family starts were at a rate of 894,000, up 0.1 percent from March and 7.2 percent from the previous April.  Multifamily construction took back much of the March 16 percent increase, with starts falling 12.6 percent.  They are up 19.1 percent year-over-year.

On a non-adjusted basis, there were 117,600 residential starts in April 84,300 of them single-family units.  The comparable numbers for March were 107,500 and 73,100.

Construction began on 406,400 residential units during the first four months of 2018.  This is a 9.1 percent increase from the same period last year.  

Completions of residential units increased by 2.8 percent from March, to a seasonally adjusted rate of 1,257,000 units, representing a 14.8 percent rate of growth from the previous April.  The March estimate of 1,217,000 units was revised up to 1,223,000.

On a non-adjusted basis there were 95,100 residential units completed in April compared to 94,900 in March. Single-family units accounted for 63,100 of the total, down from 66,600 the previous month.

Year-to-date through April saw completion of 362,600 units of housing compared to 328,900 during the same period in 2017.  This is an increase of 10.2 percent.

At the end of April there were an estimated 1,124,000 units under construction, unchanged from March.  Single family units accounted for 510,000 of the total.   In addition, there were 163,000 permits outstanding, i.e. issued but under which construction had not yet begun.

Permits in the Northeast plunged by 31.9 percent compared to March and were 23.3 percent lower on an annual basis.  Starts were down by 8.1 percent for the month but were running 34.1 percent ahead of the same month last year. The rate of completions fell by 20.3 percent from March but was 40.2 percent higher than the previous April.

In the Midwest, permits fell 4.4 percent but remained half percentage above the April 2017 level.  Housing starts dropped by 16.3 percent compared to March and by 18.4 percent compared to April 2017.  Completions were up 24.4 percent and 7.2 percent from the two earlier periods.

The South saw a rise of 12.0 percent in permitting, bringing the level up 23.3 percent above a year earlier.  Construction starts rose 6.4 percent for the month and saw 16.3 percent annual improvement. The rate of completions was up 8.5 percent and 8.1 percent month-over-month and year-over-year respectively.

Permitting in the West was down 13.2 percent and 2.6 percent from the two earlier periods. Starts declined by 12.0 percent for the month but rose by that same percentage compared to the previous April.  Completions fell 7.1 percent compared to March but were up 28.2 percent for the year.