Seasonally-adjusted building activity across Australia fell 0.5 per cent in the March quarter, falling to $29.19 billion as the coronavirus crisis began.

New residential building work was down 1.0 per cent to $15.2 billion, while non-residential building work dropped 0.3 per cent to $11.7 billion, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Wednesday show.

Compared to the March quarter in 2019, residential building activity was down 12.8 per cent.

Work commenced on 44,434 dwelling units in seasonally adjusted terms, up 3.8 per cent from the December quarter but down 1.6 per cent from a year ago.

The ABS said it was monitoring potential impacts of the coronavirus on construction activity statistics, but the designation of construction of an essential activity allowed work to continue during the lockdowns implemented in late March.

“Since it takes some time to approve and commence an application for building construction work, there will be a lag between any change in demand, the number of applications and subsequent impacts on new work,” the ABS said.