U.S. home building slipped 0.3percent in March, since housing starts are running below last year’s rate in a indication that inventory may be challenging for would-be buyers.

The Commerce Department said Friday that ground breakings each month happened at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.14 million. So far this calendar year, starts have fallen 9.7%. Builders are currently pulling back from their structure of single-family homes and flats, even though the job market that is good has provided a foundation of demand by buyers seeking an upgrade. Nor does the distribution squeeze seem possible to end soon because permits, a sign of future activity, fell 1.7percent to an annual rate of 1.27 million.

Homebuyers have benefited from average 30-year mortgage rates which have drifted down to 4.17% after peaking at nearly 5 percent from November. But years of cost increases eclipsing earnings expansion has left numerous buyers not able to pay for a home restraining building action.

“Higher housing prices have eaten into a few of the increased buying power driven by lower mortgage rates and higher incomes,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com. “As a consequence, while some indicators reveal that buyers have more momentum than originally expected this season, worth is still quite top of mind and could help explain slower housing begins.”

Housing starts fell in the Northeast, South and Midwest, but they surged in the West. The construction data may be volatile, so the levels of homebuilding can vary sharply on monthly basis.

Economists noted that the inherent challenge for enlarging construction might be a lack of employees, although that housing starts might have stifled.

“Homebuilders still face challenges such as labor shortages and higher labour costs,” said Joel Kan of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “These headwinds continue to impede the pace of building, and also on a year-over-year foundation, single-family starts have dropped five of the previous six months.”