WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home construction rebounded in July, rising to an eight-month high and offering hope that housing has regained momentum after two months of declines.
Construction increased 15.7 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million homes, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. That was the fastest pace since November and followed declines of 4 percent in June and 7.4 percent in May.
Applications for building permits, considered a good sign of future activity, also showed strength in July, advancing 8.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.05 million, after declines of 3.1 percent in June and 5.1 percent in May.
The July rebound reflected strength in single-family home construction, which rose 8.3 percent, and in apartment construction, which was up 33 percent.
The strength in July was led by a 44 percent rise in construction starts in the Northeast. Housing construction was up 29 percent in the South, recovering from a 26.8 percent plunge the month before blamed in part on heavy rains in that part of the country. Sales rose 18.6 percent in the West but fell 24.8 percent in the Midwest.
Economists noted that the July performance was much better than expected, and June was revised significantly higher, both good signs for the future.
Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said solid job growth and a recent decline in mortgage rates were helping boost construction. But he said weak wage growth and tight lending standards were still depressing activity, especially among first-time buyers.
A report Monday indicated homebuilders are feeling more confident about their sales prospects, a hopeful sign that home construction and sales of newly built homes could pick up after stalling in recent months.
The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose in August to 55, up two points from a revised 53 for July.