The US homebuilding sector showed fresh signs of life in June after a year of mostly dim news, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
Housing starts jumped 14.6 percent from May to an annual rate of 629,000 units, the department said.
That was much better than expected by analysts, who forecast an average 570,000 starts last month.
It was the second straight month of increases, and the department sharply hiked its May number to 609,000 units, from an initial 560,000 estimate.
Building permits, which can signal the direction of housing construction in the world's biggest economy, rose 2.5 percent to a stronger-than-expected annualized rate of 624,000.
The latest data offered a glimmer of a rebound, with June housing starts up 16.7 percent from a year ago and building permits up 6.7 percent.
Construction has been under siege since the collapse of the housing bubble in 2006 and the 2008-2009 recession.
Despite mortgage rates near historic lows and still-falling home prices, high unemployment -- 9.2 percent in June -- and faltering economic growth have held back home-buying.