September housing starts showed double-digit increases compared with both last year and last month, according to data released this morning by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Housing starts came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 658,000, up 15% from the August rate of 572,000, and up 10.2% compared with September 2010.
The figure of 658,000 was the highest total housing-starts figure since April 2010, when starts stood at 687,000.
"The housing starts number this morning was good. whether it's real -- we'll find out next month," said Joshua Rosenbaum, managing director, Global Industrial Group, UBS. "Some of it might be a release of pent-up demand."
While the double-digit gains could spark optimism in a building industry toiling near record lows, the single-family figures were not quite as uplifting. Single-family starts came in at a rate of 425,000, a 1.7% increase compared with August.
However, single-family starts were down 4.9% from the September 2010 figure of 447,000.
Meanwhile, building permits in September were at a rate of 594,000, 5% below the August rate of 625,000.
On a regional basis, the biggest improvement came in the Midwest, where single-unit starts increased 46% compared with the previous month. Going the other direction, single-family housing starts fell 29.3% in the Northeast on a year-over-year basis.