New U.S. housing starts and permits rose in August to their highest level since November, lifted by a rebound in multifamily homes, a government report showed on Thursday.
The Commerce Department said housing starts rose 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 598,000 units, just shy of market expectations for 600,000 units. July's housing starts were revised upwards to 589,000 units from the previously reported 581,000 units.
Groundbreaking for single-family homes, however, fell 3 percent in August to an annual rate of 479,000 units, after five straight monthly increases. Starts for the volatile multifamily segment jumped 25.3 percent to a 119,000 annual pace, reversing the previous month's slump.
Compared to August last year, housing starts declined 29.6 percent. The housing market, the main trigger of the worst U.S. recession in seven decades, is showing steady signs of healing and analysts expect activity in the sector to contribute to gross domestic product growth this quarter.
A survey on Wednesday showed confidence among U.S. home builders reached its highest level in 16 months in September, which bodes well for future home construction.
New building permits, which give a sense of future home construction, climbed 2.7 percent to 579,000 units in August. That compared to analysts' forecasts for 580,000 units. Compared to the same period a year-ago, building permits fell 32.4 percent.
The inventory of total houses under construction fell to a record low 595,000 units in August, the department said, while the total number of permits authorized but not yet started also hit an all-time trough of 99,000 units.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Neil Stempleman).