Approvals for the construction of new homes hit a wall in March as units and townhouses drove a seasonally adjusted 15.5 per cent decline in overall activity.

Approvals for private sector houses fell 3.2 per cent, while the “other dwellings” category, which includes apartment blocks and townhouses, plunged 30.6 per cent.

Building and construction economist for BIS Oxford Economics Tim Hibbert said the trend would likely continue throughout 2019.

“Negative leads (are) still coming through from property prices, turnover rates, housing finance and land sales,” Mr Hibbert said.

Friday’s figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are a significant turnaround from February, when overall building activity increased by 19.1 per cent.

Analysts were anticipating a seasonally-adjusted 15 per cent drop in activity for March.

ABS director of construction statistics Justin Lokhorst said the overall monthly decline was driven by falls in NSW (27.4 per cent) and Victoria (27.0 per cent).

Over the 12 months to March, total building approvals for dwellings fell by a seasonally adjusted 27.3 per cent.

The Australian dollar edged slightly lower to 69.89 US cents immediately after the data’s 1130 AEST release and was 69.91 US cents at 1152 AEST.