Housing starts rose 1.5 percent in January from December, led by a surge in apartment construction, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Housing starts in January reached a seasonally annual rate of 699,000 units, reaching its highest level since October 2008.

The main reason for the January increase was due to a 14.4 percent rise in groundbreaking on rental properties or buildings with five units or more.

However, while multifamily units saw a rise in January, the construction of single-family homes had a modest drop of 1 percent for the month. The January decrease follows a strong 12 percent gain in single-family construction in December.

While single-family home construction has made strides over the last few months, construction still remains low and is at about half the rate that is considered healthy for the sector.

Still, more builders are feeling encouraged about the signs of a gradual recovery in the new-home market. Building permits in January, a future gauge to construction, ticked up 0.7 percent. Also, a recent index showed that builder sentiment was at its highest level in nearly five years.

Daily Real Estate News | Friday, February 17, 2012