WASHINGTON -- US housing starts and construction permits surged in June after strong gains the prior month, government data showed Friday, suggesting the prolonged real-estate slump may be easing.
The Commerce Department reported permits to build privately owned homes rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of 563,000, a sharp 8.7 percent higher than in May.
Permits, a forward-looking indicator of the housing sector, had climbed to a revised May rate of 518,000. That was a 4.0 percent gain from April when they had tumbled to an all-time low.
The June permits were far stronger than the 524,000 expected by most analysts.
However, permits were still 52.0 percent below their June 2008 level.
The number of permits to build single-family homes, the largest segment of the housing construction sector, rose for the third month running, by 5.9 percent, after gains of 7.4 percent in May and 5.0 percent in April.
Permits for buildings with five units or more shot up 18.8 percent in June.
Construction starts on privately owned homes rose 3.6 percent in June after soaring 17.3 percent the prior month. On an annual basis, they were 46.0 percent lower.
The Commerce Department said the housing starts rate climbed to 582,000 after a revised 562,000 in May, up from an initial estimate of 532,000.
The average analyst forecast was for a much weaker 530,000 starts.
Housing starts also had hit a record low in April as a severe recession deepened the collapse of the housing boom more than two years ago.
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