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Housing production edges up 2% in March

But gains are in the East, Midwest while the West drops 19%

Nationwide housing starts rose 2% to 926,000 units in March from an upwardly revised February reading, according to newly released data from the U.S. Commerce Department.

Single-family housing production rose 4.4% to 618,000 homes in March while multifamily starts dropped 2.5% to 308,000 units.

"Today's reading demonstrates that the housing industry continues to make gains at a gradual pace," said Tom Woods, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. "There are still some price sensitive buyers who remain on the fence."

"Builders are being careful not to add inventory beyond expected demand, especially as they struggle with increasing costs for lots, labor and materials," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "However, pent-up demand, low mortgage interest rates and a growing economy should keep the housing industry moving forward throughout the rest of the year."

Regionally, combined single- and multifamily starts increased the Northeast and Midwest, with respective gains of 114.9% and 31.3%. Housing production dropped 3.5% in the South and 19.3% in the West.

Led by a drop in the volatile multifamily sector, overall permit issuance declined 5.7% in March to a rate of 1.039 million. Multifamily permits fell 15.9% to a rate of 403,000 while single-family permits rose 2.1% to 636,000.

Regionally, the Northeast registered a permit gain of 39.8%, while the Midwest, South and West posted respective losses of 4.4%, 14.2% and 4.3%.

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