By Harriet Torry and Sarah Chaney
WASHINGTON--Construction of new U.S. homes rose in December to the highest level since 2006, the Commerce Department said Friday, a sign of continued momentum in the housing sector. Here are key takeaways from the report:
--Housing starts, a measure of U.S. homebuilding, increased 16.9% in December from November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.608 million. That was the highest level since December 2006, when the rate was 1.649 million.
--Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected starts would rise by 0.4% to an annual pace of 1.37 million in December.
--Residential permits, which can be a bellwether for future home construction, fell 3.9% from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.416 million. Economists estimated they fell 1.5% to 1.46 million permits.
--Monthly housing starts data are volatile and are often revised. December's increase came with a margin of error of 12.8 percentage points. Housing starts in November were 1.375 million, revised up from the previous estimate of 1.365 million.
--Other housing market indicators show continued momentum. The National Association of Homebuilders said Thursday its housing market index hovered near a 20-year high in January.
--Starts were up 40.8% from December 2018, and building permits rose 5.8% from the same month of the prior year.
The Commerce report can be found at http://www.census.gov/construction/nrc/pdf/newresconst.pdf
Corrections & Amplifications
This article was corrected at 08:52 a.m. ET because the original misstated the month for the margin of error in the fifth paragraph. Monthly housing starts data are volatile and are often revised. December's increase came with a margin of error of 12.8 percentage points.