WASHINGTON — Construction starts on new U.S. homes rose by a surprisingly strong 8.2% in April and applications for new building permits turned up for the first time in five months, the Commerce Department said Friday in a report showing the hard-hit housing sector still had some spring vigor.
Starts in April ran at a 1.032-million-unit annual rate, up from a revised 954,000-unit rate in March, and permits gained 4.9% to 978,000 a year from a revised 932,000 in March.
Starts on multiple-unit buildings increased but single-family home starts fell.
Nonetheless, it was a significantly stronger overall performance than anticipated by economists surveyed by Reuters who had forecast April starts at a 940,000-unit rate and permits at a 920,000 rate.
The jump in overall April starts was the biggest monthly increase since a 14% rise in January 2006, and the gain in permits was the largest since a 6.7% gain in December 2006.