Construction of new single-family homes rose 2.1% from October to November at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 482,000, a sign that housing construction might finally be on firm footing.

When compared to November 2008 the gain is even more impressive: 5.5%. According to figures released Wednesday morning by the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development, all housing starts (single- and multifamily) rose by 8.9% in November from October to 574,000 units.

But when compared with November 2008, all starts fell 12.4%. In November multifamily construction was the laggard: just 83,000 units started compared with 180,000 in the same month a year ago.

Applications for new building permits were also up, rising 6% to an annual rate of 584,000 units, a stronger showing than economists predicted.

"Stabilization in home construction appears to be on solid footing, with single-family housing starts at levels well above the low set in March of this year," said Freddie Mac's chief economist Frank Nothaft. "The bottom in home construction has coincided with increasing home sales throughout the past nine months, as homebuyers are now attracted by the combination of lower home prices, low mortgage rates and the perception that the free fall in the housing market is behind us."

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