WASHINGTON — Housing starts soared 7.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.036 million in March, the highest level since June 2008 when 1.046 million starts were reported, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

The March level was way above the revised estimate of 968,000 for February, originally reported as 917,000, the department said.

March building permits fell 3.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 902,000 from the previous month's rate of 939,000, originally reported as 946,000.

March starts were way above the 930,000 projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, and were 46.7% above the March 2012 rate of 706,000.

March permits were below the economists' median projection of 940,000, but were 17.3% above the estimate of 769,000 a year ago.

Regionally, housing starts rose 2.7% in the Midwest but fell 11.7% in the South, 9.7% in the West, and 1.1% in the Northeast.

Building permits rose 24.7% in the Northeast, but fell 10.4% in the West, 6.2% in the South, and 2.1% in the Midwest.

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