Housing construction levels appear to be improving, but economist Peter Jones claims that this shows that the Australian housing market is actually still in a critical state.

ABS figures released yesterday showed that the number of country-wide dwelling approvals increased 3.1% over February, but according to Jones, chief economist of Master Builders Australia, the increase is painting a false picture of a housing recovery.

"The improvement… was buoyed by an unusually high public sector housing figure,” he said, explaining that the housing approved for building was mostly public houses.

Conversely, for private units and apartments, Jones said that a negative trend has emerged.

“The overall negative trend in approvals is very worrying… Despite green shoots and early signs of a recovery, momentum has failed to build.”

Jones added the industry had been hoping for a much stronger recovery to take hold and that the feedback from stakeholders is that conditions are still ‘tough’.

HIA economist Geordan Murray sees it differently.

“After two consecutive months where approval numbers slipped back it is pleasing to see a material improvement in February,” Murray said.