WASHINGTON — Housing starts increased 6.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 914,000 in May, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

The level rose from the revised estimate of 856,000 for April, originally reported as 853,000, the department said.

May building permits rose dipped 3.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 974,000 from the previous month's rate of 1.005 million, originally reported as 1.017 million.

May starts were below the 950,000 projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, but were 28.6% above the May 2012 rate of 711,000. Permits were nearly spot-on with the economists' median projection of 975,000, and were 20.8% above the estimate of 806,000 a year ago.

Regionally, housing starts rose 17.8% in the South and 5.7% in the West, but dropped 13.7% in the Midwest and 9% in the Northeast.

Building permits rose 4% in the Northeast, but dropped 6.1% in the Midwest, 3.5% in the West, and 3.3% in the South.

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