Analysts were expecting a boost in November's residential construction data, but not this much of a boost.
The Commerce Department's residential construction report released Tuesday morning showed housing starts at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000 -- that's 9.3% higher than the revised October estimate of 627,000 (revised from a previously released figure of 628,000). It's also the highest level of starts since April 2010.
Compared with last year's near-record low, total housing starts were up 24.3%.
Single-family housing starts were up a modest 2.3%, coming in at a pace of 447,000, according to the government figures.
Building permits also showed strong improvement in November. Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in November were at a rate of 681,000. This is up 5.7% from October and up 20.7% from the same month a year ago.