The U.S. Department of Commerce has had a rough job the last few years. Lately, it seems any news released by the government organization just serves to confirm what we already know: the economy stinks, the housing market is struggling and jobs are hard to find. Any news is bad news, it seems, and finding a silver lining is tougher than ever. Well, here’s one.

In announcing new residential construction statistics for October 2011 earlier this month, the Commerce Department revealed that although slightly fewer homes were started in October compared to September, though building permits – largely stimulated by a 30 percent rise in apartment permits – rose almost 11 percent last month. Apartment permits have also risen significantly in the past year, as more and more Americans choose renting over owning.

US Housing Starts Down Slightly in October

Builders broke ground on a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 628,000 homes last month. That’s roughly half the 1.2 million that economists equate with a healthy housing market. But building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose nearly 11 percent. The increase was spurred by a 30 percent increase in apartment permits, which reached its highest level in three years. Over the past year, apartment permits have surged roughly 63 percent. Single-family permits have increased just 6.6 percent in that span. Renting has become a preferred option for many Americans who lost their jobs during the recession and were forced to leave their homes. The surge in apartments may help boost economic growth, but it has not been enough to offset the steep declines in single-family homebuilding.

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