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US home building climbed 13.2 percent in April: gov't

WASHINGTON -- U.S home construction surged in April to its highest pace in five months. Almost all that increase came from the volatile apartment sector, a sign that Americans are still struggling to buy single-family homes.

The Commerce Department said Friday that builders started work on 1.07 million homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in April, up 13.2 percent from March. The gains were driven by a 42.9 percent jump in the construction of apartments and condominiums. The rate of building single-family homes rose just 0.8 percent.

The gains for apartment building point to an economy where more Americans rent instead of purchasing a home. Following the housing bust and Great Recession, Americans have been coping with flat wages and job insecurity, making it difficult to save for a down payment. The home ownership rate was 64.8 percent at the start of the year, down from a peak of 69.2 percent during 2004.

Homebuilding has yet to fully rebound during the nearly five-year recovery. That has deprived the economy of a traditional source of growth because each single-family home built creates three jobs and generates US$90,000 in tax revenues, according to the National Association of Homebuilders.

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