Following exceptionally strong production in this year’s first quarter that was driven in part by very good weather conditions, nationwide housing starts retreated 5.4 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.56 million units, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The shortfall occurred mostly in the multi-family sector, where production often fluctuates widely on a month-to-month basis. Multi-family starts declined 18.1 percent to 285,000 units. The shortfall occurred primarily in the Northeast and Midwest, where extraordinarily good weather spurred big gains earlier in the year. Those regions registered declines of 24.1 percent and 19.5 percent, respectively, while the West showed a 5.8 percent decline and the South posted a 5.6 percent increase. Single-family housing starts fell by a marginal 2 percent in April, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.27 million units.

“After the first few months of this year, when unseasonably warm and dry weather and historically low interest rates combined to help housing buoy the national economy, some downward adjustment was to be expected in housing production.” said Gary Garczynski, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a builder/developer from Woodbridge, Va. “But our latest surveys of single-family builders indicate no shortfall in buyer demand or builder confidence. And we are still on track to build slightly more than the 1.6 million units we did last year.”

NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders said the numbers were not alarming. “With interest rates on long-term mortgages still below 7 percent, and with the economy on a recovery path, the market for new homes is in very good shape. Although rental vacancy rates have been rising during the past year as large numbers of renters have shifted to first-time homeownership, we expect job growth to help support the multi-family market as the economic recovery proceeds.”

Housing permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, were virtually unchanged in April at a rate of 1.63 million units. Single-family permits were up 1.6 percent to a 1.27 million-unit rate, while multi-family permits were down almost 4 percent to a rate of 366,000. Three out of four regions posted gains in housing permits in April, with the South’s 3.1 percent decline being the only exception to the rule. Permits rose 11.2 percent in the Northeast, 2.5 percent in the Midwest and 1.2 percent in the West.