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April 21, 2003: Housing Starts Increase In March

April 21, 2003
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WASHINGTON — Statistics released by the U.S. Department of Commerce showed that housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.78 million in March, an increase of 8.3 percent from February's pace of 1.64 million units.

"In an economy that continues to display overall weakness, housing remains a remarkable source of strength," stated Kent Conine, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), "and we are confident that the industry will experience a very good year in 2003."

David Seiders, NAHB’s chief economist, said that the Commerce Department report "provides good news that the industry remained resilient through major weather gyrations as well as uncertainties related to the war in Iraq and a potential terrorist backlash. It's now clear that, in this year's first quarter, housing once again provided a solid contribution to growth in the nation's gross domestic product."

Single-family starts in March registered a 7.7 percent gain to an annual rate of 1.41 million. Multifamily starts during the month climbed to a rate of 366,000, a 10.6 percent gain.

"The strength of March's housing numbers suggests that very low interest rates have really helped and that we have excellent momentum going into the second quarter," Seiders said.

Regionally, housing starts climbed 9.8 percent to a rate of 157,000 in the Northeast; 25.4 percent to 355,000 units in the Midwest; and 9.4 percent to 827,000 units in the South. Starts registered a 4.5 percent decline in the West, to an annual rate of 441,000, but still remained above the pace of a year ago.

While the seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing permits dropped 7 percent in March, Seiders noted that the decline was concentrated in the multifamily sector following a surge in those permits the month before. Single-family permits were down by 1 percent.

Publication date: 04/21/2003

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