March was going to be the month the housing industry shook off its bad-weather doldrums and came roaring back due to all kinds of pent-up demand, and … Uh, not really.
Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 990,000. This is 2.4 percent (±1.0%) below the revised February rate of 1,014,000, but is 11.2 percent (±1.1%) above the March 2013 estimate of 890,000.
Single-family authorizations in March were at a rate of 592,000; this is 0.5 percent (±1.0%)* above the revised February figure of 589,000.  Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 370,000 in March.
Privately-owned housing starts in March were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000. This is 2.8 percent (±14.7%)* above the revised February estimate of 920,000, but is 5.9 percent (±8.4%)* below the March 2013 rate of 1,005,000. 
Single-family housing starts in March were at a rate of 635,000; this is 6.0 percent (±15.5%)* above the revised February figure of 599,000.  The March rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 292,000.
 — Actual single-family permits of 50,800 slightly trailed last year’s 51,400. It was the second month in a row actual single-family permits have trailed the previous year.
 — Actual starts, at 79,100, were 5.0 percent below the 83,300 seen in March 2013. It too trailed the previous year for the second straight month.
 – Actual single-family starts of 54,000 were slightly above the 52,500 seen in March 2013.
Business Insider’s predictions were for 1 million seasonally adjusted annual permits (the report came in 1.0 percent lower) and seasonally adjusted annual 975,000 starts (the report came in 3.0 percent lower). February’s original figures in each category were revised up slightly.
The message from the year-over-year comparisons is, at least for now, that the homebuilding industry has flattened out. If that’s indeed the case, it’s doing so at a completely unacceptable level signifying malaise (and there’s an outside chance that we may really be witnessing the beginning of a decline).
UPDATE: The Associated Press’s predictable near-whitewash notes that (seasonally adjusted annual) starts “rose 30.7 percent in the Northeast and jumped 65.5 percent in the Midwest” from February to March. The other two regions fell. That doesn’t bode well for future months.