Homes and apartment construction fell by 17.6%, biggest decline in 14 years.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that builders started construction on new homes and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.84 million units in March, down from 2.23 million units in February.

While analysts had been expecting a decline in housing, the steepness of the drop, the biggest plunge since January 1991, caught them by surprise.

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