[WASHINGTON] US housing starts rose more than expected in June as construction activity increased broadly, but a downward revision to the prior month's data pointed to a housing sector treading water in the second quarter.
Groundbreaking surged 4.8 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.19 million units, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. May's starts were revised down to a 1.14 million-unit pace from the previously reported 1.16 million-unit pace.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to a 1.17 million-unit pace last month.
Housing starts in the second quarter were a touch higher than the average for the first three months of the year, suggesting that residential construction was probably a small boost to gross domestic product in the second quarter.
The housing market is being supported by a strengthening labour market and demand for rental accommodation, but home building is being constrained by labour and land shortages.
A survey of homebuilders published on Monday showed scattered softness in some markets, with builders citing regulatory challenges, as well as shortages of lots and labour.
Groundbreaking on single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, increased 4.4 per cent to a 778,000-unit pace in June. Single-family starts in the South, where most home building takes place, gained 0.5 per cent.
Single-family starts jumped 31.6 per cent in the Northeast and climbed 3.1 per cent in West. Groundbreaking on single-family housing projects increased 7.3 per cent in the Midwest.
But single-family home construction continues to run ahead of permits, which could limit gains in the near term.
Housing starts for the volatile multi-family segment rose 5.4 per cent to a 411,000-unit pace. The multi-family segment of the market continues to be supported by strong demand for rental accommodation as some Americans remain wary of homeownership in the aftermath of the housing market collapse.
But economists see limited scope for further increases, saying that much of the demand has already been met. Rent increases for apartments have started to moderate in some cities and vacancy rates are edging up.
Building permits increased 1.5 per cent to a 1.15 million-unit rate last month. Permits for the construction of single-family homes increased 1.0 per cent last month to a 738,000-unit rate, while multi-family building permits advanced 2.5 per cent to a 415,000-unit pace.