U.S. builders broke ground on fewer homes in March, but the pace of construction so far this year remains stronger than in 2016.

The Commerce Department says housing starts fell 6.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.22 million. The setback came after strong gains in a warmer-than-usual February. Groundbreakings on new homes are 8.1 percent higher through the first three months of this year compared with 2016.

More Americans are seeking new homes as job security has improved with low unemployment. Rising housing starts suggest higher sales, but the construction has not overcome a dwindling supply of new and existing homes.

Building permits — an indicator of future home construction — rose 3.6 percent in March to an annual rate of 1.26 million.