A surge in apartment construction gave builders more work in November. But 2011 is still shaping up to be one of the worst years in history for homebuilders.
The US Commerce Dep-artment says builders broke ground on a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000 homes last month, a 9.3 per cent jump from October. That's the highest level since April 2010.
Still, that's far below the 1.2 million homes that economists say would be built each year in a healthy housing market.
Building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose by 5.7 per cent. The increase was spurred by more apartment permits. Though new homes represent just 20 per cent of the overall home market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
In October, builders broke ground on a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 628,000 homes. That's barely half the 1.2 million that economists say must be built each year to sustain a healthy housing market.
But building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose nearly 11 per cent. The increase was spurred by a 30 per cent increase in apartment permits, to the highest level in three years.
Over the past year, apartment permits have surged roughly 63 per cent. Single-family permits have increased just 6.6 per cent in that time. Home construction and sales are in the midst of one of its worst years ever. Demand for new homes is weak. Record-low mortgage rates and plunging home prices have done little to help.
The homebuilders' trade group said this week that its survey of industry sentiment rose in December to 21, the highest level since May 2010.