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Home builders took advantage of the warm spell the country enjoyed last month as housing starts rose 3.0% from the revised January level to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.288 million.

At the same time, the Commerce Department revised the previous month's report to a rate of 1.251 million from 1.246 million.

Construction of new single-family homes were up 6.5% to a rate of 872,000, with gains posted in all regions but the South. The rate for apartment buildings dropped 7.7% to 396,000.

Building permits

Although the February construction numbers were encouraging, the outlook for the next few months isn't.

Building permits were issued last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.213 million -- down 6.2% below the revised January rate of 1.293 million.

The decline came primarily in authorizations for multi-unit buildings, which plunged 26.9% to a rate of 334,000. Permits for single-family homes were up 3.1% to a rate of 832,000.

Only the Midwest showed an increase in overall permits issued.

The complete report may be found on the Commerce Department website.

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Jobless claims

Initial applications for state unemployment benefits were lower in the week ending March 11 after rising a week earlier.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports new claims totaled 241,000, a drop of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level.

The four-week moving average rose 750 from the previous week to 237,250. Because of its relative lack of volatility, this tally is seen by many economists as a more accurate gauge of the labor market.

The full report is available on the DOL website.

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