This modest gain was seen in both the single- and multifamily sectors, which registered growth of 2.3% and 3.2%, respectively.
"April's increase in housing production comes on top of strong upward revisions to the previous month's data, and is an encouraging sign that we are returning to a gradual, upward trend that should continue in the year ahead as builders respond to improving demand for new homes in certain markets," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla.
"Unfortunately, overly restrictive lending conditions for builders and buyers are slowing the pace of this trend considerably," he added.
"While still less than half the pace of what we would expect in a fully healthy market, the rate of housing production in April was very solid for this point of the recovery and in keeping with the findings of our latest builder surveys that have registered modest improvements in buyer traffic and near-term sales expectations for single-family homes," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.
The 2.6% gain in housing production this April was due to a 2.3% increase on the single-family side to a seasonally adjusted, annual rate of 492,000 units and a 3.2% increase on the multifamily side to a 225,000-unit rate.
Regionally, starts were mixed in April, with the Midwest and South posting gains of 6.7% and 11.6%, respectively, and the Northeast and West posting respective declines of 20.7% and 8.1%.
Permit issuance, which can be an indicator of future building activity, fell 7.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 715,000 units in April following an unsustainably large gain in the previous month. The decline was entirely on the more volatile multifamily side, where permits fell 20.8% to a 240,000-unit rate that is essentially back to trend. Single-family permits gained 1.9% to 475,000 units.
Regionally in April, permit activity held unchanged in the Northeast while declining 12.3% in the Midwest, 3.2% in the South and 13.9% in the West, respectively.