Groundbreaking for new U.S. home construction soared in February, jumping 22.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units as building permits climbed 3.0% to an annual rate of 547,000 units, according to Commerce Department data released yesterday.

The rate for housing starts surpassed the 450,000 level predicted by Thomson Reuters’ poll of economists. Thomson had projected a 500,000 rate for permits.

The 22.2% increase in starts follows a 14.5% drop in January to 477,000 units, originally reported as a 16.8% drop to 466,000 units. In January permits were down 2.9% to 531,000 units, originally reported as a 4.8% decrease to 521,000 units.

Year-over-year housing starts were off 47.3% from a year ago, when 1.107 million units were started. The permits figure was 44.2% below the year-ago rate of 981,000.

Housing completions in the month rose 2.3% to 785,000 units from 767,000 units last month.

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