By Ben Rooney, CNNMoney.com staff writer
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Initial construction of U.S. homes and applications for building permits both surged in June, according to government figures released Friday.
Housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 582,000, up 3.6% from a revised 562,000 in May, according to the Commerce Department.
Economists were expecting housing starts to increase to an annual rate of 524,000 units, according to a consensus estimate gathered by Briefing.com.
Single-family housing starts were especially strong, up 14.4% on a month-over-month basis. It was the biggest surge in that measure, considered the core of the housing market, since December 2004.
Friday's report suggests that the battered housing market is gradually stabilizing, according to Mike Larson, real estate and interest rate analyst at Weiss Research.
"The new home industry has done a good job of reducing supply," Larson wrote in a research report. "But the existing home market is still vastly oversupplied, and we continue to be inundated with an influx of distressed and foreclosed properties."
Applications for building permits, an indicator of future construction activity, rose 8.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 563,000 in June. It was the highest number of applications since December and more than the 530,000 annual rate that economists had forecast.
June marks the second month that starts have increased after the annual rate of new homes breaking ground fell to an all-time low of 454,000 units in April.
New home construction activity was strongest in the Midwest, where starts were up by 33.3% versus the previous month. In the Northeast, starts jumped 28.6% in June.
But the West and the South both saw declines in the number of new homes breaking ground last month. Starts were down 14.8% in the West and 1.4% in the South.