The number of dwellings approved in the country slid by 0.6% in March, in trend terms, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

Among the states and territories, total dwelling approvals fell in Victoria (3.5%) and Queensland (1.4%) in trend terms. On the other hand, the Australian Capital Territory (4.8%), the Northern Territory (3.9%), Western Australia (3.8%), New South Wales (0.8%) and South Australia (0.4%) recorded increases. Tasmania was flat.

The overall decrease was driven by private-sector houses, said Justin Lokhorst, director of construction statistics at the ABS.

Approvals for private-sector houses fell 1.4% nationally in trend terms. Declines were posted by the three largest states: New South Wales (3.4%), Victoria (1.8%) and Queensland (0.9%). Tracking the opposite direction, Western Australia (1%) and South Australia (0.9%) rose over the month,

ABS also found that approvals for private dwellings excluding houses climbed by 0.8%.

In seasonally adjusted terms, total dwellings declined by 15.5% in March, largely driven by drops in New South Wales (27.4%) and Victoria (27%). The decline was led by private dwellings excluding houses, which fell by 30.6%, while private house approvals fell by 3.2%.

The value of total building approved was flat in March, in trend terms. The value of residential building rose by 0.4%, while non-residential building slid by 0.6%.

“The annualised rate of dwelling approvals has been above 200,000 for almost five years. The latest data pulls us below this watermark. The downwards trend is set to continue over the remainder of 2019, with negative leads still coming through from property prices, turnover rates, housing finance, and land sales,” said Tim Hibbert, principal economist, building and construction for BIS Oxford Economics.