WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nation’s Building News) – Lofty lumber prices continue to concern builders, but economists with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) say relief could be just weeks away.

The weekly Random Lengths composite index for framing softwood prices has exceeded $300 per 1,000 board feet since the beginning of February. The last time that price level was reached was the first week of July 2008 and the preceding June.

For the week ending April 2, the index hit $328, its highest point since the end of May 2006, when single-family starts were around 1.5 million units.

“It is not unusual to see lumber prices move upwards in the first quarter of a year as construction comes out of the winter doldrums and begins to ramp up for the spring building season,” said NAHB Senior Economist Bernard Markstein. “However, a rapid increase in prices of this order when the residential construction activity remains near historically low levels is unusual.”

Markstein cited a number of factors that have led to today’s high prices, but he said that timber operations are ramping up to meet rising demand, a process that could take six to eight weeks.

“Builders may have to wait until June before they see some relief from current high lumber prices,” he said.