Construction of new homes rose in February to the highest level in five months, but applications for new construction were weak for a third month.
The Commerce Department says housing starts rose 5.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.18 million units. Construction had fallen 3.4 percent in January and 1.4 percent in December, declines that had been blamed in part on winter weather.
Applications for building permits, a gauge of future activity, fell 3.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.17 million units after a flat reading in January and a 6.1 percent drop in December.
The decline in building permits, unless reversed, could signal future trouble in an industry that was a bright spot for the economy last year.