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Greenshoots? Homes boost in US

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The pace of US housing construction increased in August, official figures have revealed

Data from the Department of Commerce showed a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 750,000 residential units being started in August.

This is up from a revised total of 733,000 units in the previous month; and from 581,000 in August 2011.

The South accounted for almost half the housing starts in August 2012, with an adjusted annualised rate of 364,000, up 4 per cent from July.

But it was in the Midwest where the biggest improvement was made – an increase of 20 per cent to 134,000 units.

The West had an adjusted annualised rate of 176,000, down 4 per cent on July. The Northeast saw a rate of just 76,000, down 12 per cent.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said the residential sector was performing much better than last year.

‘This can be attributed to builders scrambling to meet the high demand in the buoyant rental sector,” said RICS economist Himanshu Wani.

‘Home builders’ sentiment has also rebounded, with the National Association of Home Builders housing market index at a five year high, and sales expectations for the coming six months the strongest component of the index.’

However, the residential sector is a rare chink of light in a fairly dark construction outlook across the Atlantic.

AJ reported last month that architecture firms had suffered disproportionately from the built environment downturn.

The 2012 American Institute of Architects Firm Survey showed billings dropped by 41 per cent from 2009 to 2011.

This was well in excess of the 26 per cent drop in the construction industry as a whole, and came despite a 6 per cent rise in the performance of the US economy.

Separate figures showed that construction spending was 1 per cent lower in July than June

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