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.

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