Approvals for the construction of new homes fell 5.0 per cent across Australia in February, official figures show.

Local councils approved the construction of 16,669 new homes, including houses, townhouses and apartments in multi-unit buildings, in February.

That compares to 17,552 approvals in January, seasonally adjusted.

Over the 12 months to February, building approvals were up 23.2 per cent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

Economists had forecast a fall of two per cent in approvals for February.

Approvals for private sector houses fell 2.1 per cent in the month, and the ‘other dwellings’ category, which includes apartment blocks and townhouses, was down 8.7 per cent.