Economists in a survey released Monday said they expect housing starts to grow considerably over the next two years.

The latest National Association for Business Economics report forecasts housing starts to rise 18% to 720,000 from 2011, a slight upward revision from its February analysis, with continued growth to 850,000 in 2013.

The estimate falls in line with April stats released Wednesday by the Census Bureau, which pegged the seasonally adjusted annual total at 717,000 for last month.

Economists were mostly positive in general about the U.S. economy, though forecasts remained below historic norms, according to survey chair Shawn DuBravac.

“While several forecasts have weakened slightly, there are also some signs of improvement,” DuBravac said in a news release. “Expectations for housing, vehicle sales, employment and industrial production all improved in the current survey.”

Survey respondents improved their forecast for average monthly job gains to 188,000 from 170,000 in the previous NABE report. Consumer spending is expected to grow 2.2% in 2012 and 2.5% in 2013. 

Economists, however, said they had “modest expectations” for GDP growth through 2013. 

NABE compiles its forecasts from a panel of 54 members.

ascoggin@housingwire.com

@AScoggin