Groundbreaking for new U.S. home construction surged in May, soaring 17.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 532,000 units as building permits climbed 4.0% to an annual rate of 518,000 units, according to Commerce Department data released yesterday.

The rate for housing starts surpassed the 490,000 level predicted by Thomson Reuters’ poll of economists, which had projected a 500,000 rate for permits.

The 17.2% increase in starts followed a 12.9% drop in April to 454,000 units, originally reported as a 12.8% drop to 458,000. In April permits were down 2.5% to 498,000 units, originally reported as a 3.3% decrease to 494,000 units.

Housing starts were off 45.2% from a year ago. The permits figure was 47.0% below the year-ago rate of 978,000.

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