WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. builders started construction last month on the most homes and apartments since July 2008, more evidence that the housing recovery is gaining momentum.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that builders broke ground on homes in October at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 894,000. That's a 3.6 percent gain from September.
Single-family home construction dipped 0.2 percent to an annual rate of 594,000, after hitting the fastest rate in four years in the previous month. Apartment construction, which is more volatile from month to month, rose 10 percent.
Applications for building permits, a sign of future construction, fell 2.7 percent to 866,000, after jumping 12 percent in September to a four-year high. Still, permit applications to build single-family homes rose to their highest level since July 2008.
Housing starts are 87 percent above the annual rate of 478,000 in April 2009, the recession low. That's still short of the 1.5 million annual rate considered healthy.
The housing market has been making consistent gains this year, helping prop up an economy that's being squeezed by a global slowdown and looming spending cuts and tax increases.
Builder confidence rose to its highest level in six and a half years, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo. Their index of builder sentiment rose to 46 this month, up from 41 in October. It was the highest reading since May 2006, just before the housing bubble burst.