Residential construction showed a rebound in January as housing starts improved to a pace of 596,000 -- a 14.6% increase over the downwardly revised December pace of 520,000.
Compared with a year ago, total starts are down 2.6%, according to the Department of Commerce residential construction report released Wednesday.
Still, single-family starts showed a 1.0% decline to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 413,000.
The single-family pace is the lowest since May 2009.
Building permits also presented a discouraging picture. Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in January were at a pace of 562,000 -- that's 10.4% below the revised December rate, and 10.7% below the January 2010 estimate.
On a regional basis, the statistics were mixed. In total starts, the Northeast was up 41.8% compared with December and up 11.4% compared with January 2010. But the region showed double-digit declines in single-family starts.
The Midwest showed the strongest month-over-month single-family housing starts increase: up 25.5%.