Homebuilders picked up the pace of new construction in March, a sign that the housing recovery could accelerate this spring.
Single-family housing starts led the way, boosting construction by 2.8 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000 units last month, up from February's rate of 920,000, the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported on Wednesday.
"The strongest recovery is in the Northeast and Midwest, where builders were hampered by severe winter weather earlier in the year."
Single-family starts rose 6 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 635,000 units in March, while multifamily construction fell 6.1 percent, to 292,000 units.
"Today's report is in line with our forecast of a gradual strengthening in the housing sector in 2014," said David Crowe, the NAHB's chief economist.
"However, several uncertainties including tight credit conditions for homebuyers and erratic job growth are making builders cautious about getting ahead of demand."
Regionally, production rose strongly in the Northeast and Midwest, with gains of 30.7 percent and 65.5 percent, respectively, while construction dropped 9.1 percent in the South and 4.5 percent in the West.
Permits fell 2.4 percent, to 990,000 units, in March, below the 1.014 million in February.
But the Northeast posted a gain of 33.3 percent, while the Midwest increased 26 percent. Permit issuance in the West was unchanged, and the South posted a 17.1 percent decline.