JAN 17, 2013 10:35am ET

Construction Activity Hits Four-Year High as 2012 Ends

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Single-family housing starts jumped 8% in December after a 3.2% decline in November as construction activity strengthened in the final month of the year.

“Conditions in the housing market look much better now than at the beginning of 2012 and an increasing number of housing markets are showing signs of recovery, which should bode well for future home sales later this year,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders.

The Census Bureau reported Thursday morning that single-family starts rose to a 616,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate in December from a 570,000 rate in November. (The December rate is the highest level of SF construction since June 2008.)

The bureau estimates for the full year builders started construction on 535,500 single-family units in 2012, up 24% from 2011.

Meanwhile, multifamily starts spiked 23% in December to a 330,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate from a 268,000 rate in November. (The December rate is also the highest level of multifamily construction since June 2008.)

Initial estimates for the full year show builders broke ground on 233,400 multifamily units in 2012, up 39% from 2011.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released its Beige Book which tracks economic activity in the 12 Federal Reserve Bank districts.

“New residential construction (including repairs) expanded in all but one district” during December, the Beige Book said.

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