WASHINGTON — November housing starts increased 3.9% to 555,000 as building permits declined 4.0% to 530,000, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Economists expected 550,000 housing starts and 560,000 building permits.

October starts were revised upward to 534,000 from 519,000 and building permits were also revised up to 552,000 from the 550,000 level initially reported.

“Housing starts rose in November but still remain extremely depressed,” said Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics. “Home sales and housing construction are still struggling to find a fundamental level of support in the absence of tax credits amid high unemployment and weak income growth.”

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