Housing starts rose to 717,000 in April

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Not a landslide, but def better than it was.

WASHINGTON - -- U.S. builders began work on more homes last month, evidence that the battered housing market is slowly healing.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that builders broke ground at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 717,000 homes in April from March. That's 2.6 percent more than March's total, which was revised higher. Construction rose for both single-family homes and apartments.

Building permits, a gauge of future construction, fell last month from a 3 1/2 year high to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 715,000. But that was because of a 23 percent drop in the volatile apartment category. Permits for single-family homes rose almost 2 percent.

Even with the gains, the rate of construction and the level of permits requested remain roughly half the pace considered healthy. But the increase, along with rising builder confidence and stronger job growth, is a hopeful sign that the home market may finally be starting to recover nearly five years after the housing bubble burst.

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