US home construction jumps 9.7 percent in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — Groundbreakings on new homes jumped 9.7 percent last month to the highest level since October 2016, welcome news for a housing market struggling with a shortage of homes for sale.

The Commerce Department said housing starts came in at an annual pace of 1.33 million in January, up from 1.21 million in December and 1.24 million in January 2017. Construction of single-family homes rose 3.7 percent. Construction of apartments and condominiums shot up 19.7 percent, the most since December 2016.

Home construction soared 45.5 percent in the Northeast, rose 10.7 percent in the West and grew 9.3 percent in the South. But homebuilding dropped 10.2 percent in the Midwest.

Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 7.4 percent in January.

A strengthening economy has given more Americans the confidence to shop for homes. But despite last month’s uptick, builders haven’t been putting up homes fast enough to meet demand.

A shortage of houses on the market has driven up prices and blunted sales. Standard & Poor’s reported last month that U.S. home prices rose 6.2 percent in November from a year earlier, according to its CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index.

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