New housing starts reach the best in over 4 years

The rebound in U.S. home building accelerated in December, capping the best year for the industry since 2008 and adding to signs that residential real estate is contributing to economic growth.

According to Commerce Department data, New Home Starts climbed 12.1 percent last month to a 954,000 annual rate, which exceeded all forecasts of economists. Spurred by record-low mortgage rates, home construction will probably keep making headway in 2013 as it recovers from the worst slump since the Great Depression.

Housing starts remain short of the 2.07 million in 2005 at the peak of the boom, which was three-decade high. They averaged 1.74 million a year from 2000 through 2004. All four regions of the country showed a gain in starts last month, led by a 24.7 percent surge in the Midwest. Construction of single-family houses climbed 8.1 percent in December from the prior month, to the highest level since June 2008. Work on multifamily homes jumped 20.3 percent.