After tumbling in January, the pace of new home constructions stepped it up last month.

A joint announcement from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows ground was broken for construction of privately-owned homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,178,000. That's a gain of 5.2% from January, and 30.9% above the year-ago rate of 900,000.

At the same time, the government revised its January figure upward to show an annual construction rate of 1,120,000 instead of the earlier estimate of 1,099,000.

Starts on single-family homes rose 7.2% from January to a rate of 822,000 -- the highest level since November 2007. The February rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 341,000, up 8,000 from the previous month.

"February's single-family gains indicate that this sector is strengthening in line with our forecast," said David Crowe chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders. "As the U.S. economy firms, job creation continues and mortgage interest rates remain low, we should see further growth in housing production moving forward."

Building permits

Building permits, on the other hand, were on the decline. Authorizations for construction in the months ahead fell 3.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,167,000. Still, that's 6.3% above the February 2015.

Permits for single-family homes were up 4.1%, but multi-unit authorizations were at a rate of 401,000 -- a drop of 41,000.

The complete report is available on the Commerce Department website.

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