Forecasts predict home starts will pick up in March, especially in the market for single-family homes, after harsh weather slowed construction during the winter.
The Commerce Department is scheduled to release its monthly home construction report for March on Wednesday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect home starts to increase by a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 975,000. That is the highest rate this year, but it’s still below the December 2013 rate of 1,048,000.
Economists say home starts in March shouldn’t be affected by the cold weather that depressed building activity during the past three months, putting the housing market back on the road to recovery.
“We are expecting a pretty sizeable catch up,” said Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics. “Partly the reason we are looking for a recovery is that the seasonal factors become less important in March.”
Building permits will be flat at 1,015,000 for the month. This is mostly due to volatility in the multi-family sector, which was strong in February.
Single-family construction is expected to bounce back, as builders rush to meet the pent up demand from shoppers whose buying plans were delayed by the recession and a long, cold winter.
“We’ll see a continued upward trend, particularly in the single family sector,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James. “We’ll see some volatility in the multi-family sector, but single family should continue to improve.”
Builder confidence is also strong for single-family homes. It remained steady in April, rising to 47 points from a downwardly revised 46 in March, the National Associates of Home Builders and Wells Fargo said Tuesday.
Signaling a rise in building activity, the average number of weekly hours worked in construction rose about 3% to 39.5 hours in March, according to the Labor Department. Hiring also increased in the residential sector, which added 3,100 jobs.
Economists are expecting growth in demand and construction during March, but supply constraints and labor shortages are still impacting building activity.
“The demand for homes is actually going to be relatively strong and improve,” said Brown. “But there are supply issues with builders being able to find available lots to build on and the skilled craftsman that we need to build homes.”
Economists are looking closely at home construction in March because the spring rates are expected to set the pace for the rest of the year.