Coronavirus slowed new resi construction across US in March: TRD Insights

A Census Bureau report shows housing starts dropped 22% compared to February and the number of homes completed dipped 6%

New York Insights /
Apr.April 22, 2020 10:30 AM
The spread of the coronavirus slowed new residential construction across the U.S. in March, with housing starts dropping 22%, a Census report shows. (Credit: iStock)

The spread of the coronavirus slowed new residential construction across the U.S. in March, with housing starts dropping 22%, a Census report shows. (Credit: iStock)

The U.S. Census Bureau’s preliminary residential construction report for March shows the spread of coronavirus had a substantial effect on many areas of new residential construction across the U.S.

Housing starts cratered 22 percent in March compared to February, and single-family construction activity also slowed, according to the report. Single-family construction in March was slightly higher than the same period last year, however.

Other categories that slowed in March compared to February include housing completions and new residential units approved for construction.

The Census Bureau said it can take as long as three months to establish a trend for building permit authorizations, and up to six months for housing starts and housing completions.

Additionally, the preliminary statistics are subject to sampling variability and nonsampling error such as bias and variance from response, nonreporting, and undercoverage. The Census Bureau collects this data in a monthly survey but has to estimate results whenever municipal governments do not report their building statistics.

Some key finding from the residential construction report include (± indicates of margin of error):

  • Housing starts in March 2020 dropped 22.3 percent (± 12.2) from February but was up 1.4 percent (±12.7 percent) from March 2019.
  • Single-family housing starts were 17.5 percent below (± 13.5) their February level but 2.8 percent above (± 11.2) March 2019.
  • Multifamily housing starts were down 32.1 percent (± 24.6) from February and down 3.9 percent (±30.2) from their March 2019 level.
  • Housing completions were down 6.1 percent (± 12.0) from February level and down 9 percent (± 12.4 percent) from March 2019.
  • Single‐family housing completions were down 15 percent (±11.6) from their February level and down 10.2 percent (± 8.4) from March 2019.
  • Multifamily unit completions dropped 26.1 percent (± 38.7) from their February level and dropped 4.3 percent (± 40.7) from March 2019.
  • Single-family authorizations were down 12 percent (± 1.9) from February but up 8.7 percent (± 1.8) from March 2019.
  • Multifamily unit authorizations were up 5.2 percent (± 2.7) from February but down 3.6 percent (± 7.1) from March 2019.
  • Overall, new residential units authorized by building permits in March were down 6.8 percent (± 1.1 percent) from February 2020 but up 5 percent (± 2.4) from March 2019.

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