March 19 - Starts at building sites for homes rose 0.8 percent last month to 917,000 in a sign the nation's housing market recovery is gathering steam. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The Daily Digit is 917,000. Builders dug into dirt to begin construction of 917,000 new homes annualized, according to the latest scoop from the U.S. Commerce Department. That reflects a 0.8 percent boost in groundbreaking during the month of February, following an upwardly revised 910,000 count for January. The data show most focus is on building single-family homes, about two-thirds of the total, edging up 0.5 percent to their highest level since June 2008. And that's not the end of the good news. Building permits, a proxy for future construction, also picked up to the best level in 4-1/2 years. A step-up in both numbers give economists hope that the nation's housing market recovery is gathering steam, which also may mean a jump in construction jobs and consumer confidence. In 2012, housing added to the economy for the first time since 2005.