Building approval numbers have eased back from dizzying heights seen in recent times but remain at an extremely high level, the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the overall number of new houses, townhouses, units and apartments approved for construction by local councils throughout Australia dropped 3.5 percent when compared with February.

But at 15,998 (seasonally adjusted), the number was up 20 percent compared with the same month one year earlier.

Moreover, if the pace set in March continued, Australia would build 191,496 homes each year – an extremely high level for an industry which has managed more than 160,000 homes in only three out of the past ten years.

 building approvals

Building Industry Economists welcomed the latest data.

“Building approvals for the month of March 2014 are consistent with healthy growth in new home building activity this year, although the approvals cycle itself may well have peaked” Housing Industry Association Chief Economist Harley Dale said.

“If you’re searching for highlights to the Australian economy, new housing is the best shot you can take.”

Meanwhile, Master Builders Association Chief Economist Peter Jones repeated calls for a budget which boosted business confidence and provided a pathway to structural fiscal repair, but said the home building recovery remained on track and that the seasonally adjusted fall in approvals was not unexpected.

“Builder’s optimism about the strength of the upturn is reflected by the fact that building approvals are up 20 per cent seasonally adjusted through the year” Jones said.

In terms of states, approvals surged 33.1 percent in Tasmania and rose 8.0 percent in New South Wales to reach their second highest level in that state in more than ten years.

Approvals were flat, however, in South Australia and dropped 12.5 percent, 9.1 percent and 3.3 percent in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland respectively.