WASHINGTON — Ground-breaking for U.S. home construction was stronger than economists expected in August as building permits and housing starts both increased for the first time since March, the Commerce Department reported ­Tuesday.

Housing starts rose 10.5% in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 598,000, thanks partly to a 42.7% surge in construction of multi-unit buildings. Building permits expanded 1.8% to a 569,000 pace.

Economists expected 550,000 housing starts and 560,000 building permits for August, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

For the 12-month period that ended in August, building permits saw a decline of 6.7% while housing starts increased 2.2%.

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