Single-family housing starts edged up by less than 1% in January but it was still enough to push construction activity to the highest level since July 2008.
Meanwhile, multifamily starts plummeted 26% from December to a 260,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate in January. Overall, housing starts fell 8.5% in January.
The Census Bureau reported Wednesday morning that single-family starts rose to a 613,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate in January from a 608,000 rate in December. January single-family starts are up 29% from a year ago.
Many analysts were expecting a 4% drop in single-family starts. They correctly forecast a monthly increase in permits for single-family construction, which rose by 2% in January.
The Census Bureau finalized its estimate for 2012, which shows builders broke ground on 534,600 single-family units last year, up 24% from 2011.
Multifamily starts totaled 234,200 units in 2012, up 40% from the year prior.
Economists are forecasting 2013 will be another strong year for the housing market in terms of sales and construction activity.