Builders ramped up construction of new homes in April, providing a jolt to a slowing housing market and the broader economic recovery.
Housing starts jumped 13.2% from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,072,000 -- the highest since November, the Commerce Department reported Friday. The gain surpassed analysts’ expectations and came largely from the more volatile multi-family sector.
Economists polled by Bloomberg News had expected a rate of about 980,000.
The surge comes as the housing recovery has shown signs of cooling. New construction has been muted in recent months, a trend economists blamed partly on severe winter weather across much of the country.
Would-be home buyers have also struggled to afford houses after swift price increases last year locked some out of the market.
Those affordability pressures, along with a shortage of ready-to-build lots, have builders worried. On Thursday, the National Assn. of Home Builders reported builder confidence fell in May to the lowest level in a year.
Still, builders reported growing optimism for future sales. And for the moment, construction has picked up amid warmer weather across the nation.
Housing starts climbed in all regions. In the West, a major home-building region, starts climbed 11.1% from March.
Nationally, builders started new single-family homes at a 0.8% faster rate compared with the previous month; much of the gain came from apartment building.
Building permits, a gauge of future construction, jumped 8% nationwide, the Commerce Department said.