A hoped-for spring surge in homebuilding to relieve a worsening national housing shortage didn't materialize in April, U.S. Census Bureau data suggests.
US builders broke ground on fewer apartment buildings last month, pushing overall home construction down 3.7 percent from March.
Economists had expected housing starts to drop to an annual rate of 1.310 million from the 1.319 million originally reported for the previous month.
Single-family housing starts rose month over month by 1,000 in April to 894,000. Building permits fell 1.8 percent to a rate of 1.352 million units last month.
Only the South region saw an uptick in housing starts in April, compared with the March level.
"The drop [month over month] was broad based, as construction slowed in three out of the four regions in the USA", said Sam Khater, chief economist for Freddie Mac. Residential construction has been hamstrung by rising prices for building materials and shortages of land and skilled workers.
The Trump administration in April past year imposed anti-subsidy duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber.
Investment in homebuilding was flat in the first quarter after growing at a 12.8 percent annualized rate in the October-December quarter.
Permits for new single-family homes rose month over month in April from a revised annual rate of 851,000 in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 859,000.
Multi-family permits slumped by 6.3% to a rate of 493,000 in April after soaring by 20.4% to 526,000 in March.
The number of single-family units completed fell 4.0 percent in April.
In 2017, 1.202 million housing units were started, up 2.4% compared with 2016, and a 10-year high.