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Housing Construction Dips in Dec.

January 17, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Construction of new homes and apartments fell 3.3 percent in December but the total housing activity for the year managed a solid 2.2 percent increase, a remarkable achievement for an industry that normally is one of the hardest hit during a recession.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that construction was started on 1.57 million single-family homes and apartments last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate. That was 3.3 percent below the November level, which had risen a sharp 7 percent.

Even with the December decline, housing construction for all of 2001 rose by a solid 2.2 percent to 1.60 million units, the second-highest performance in the last 15 years. Only 1999 showed more construction activity in the last 15 years, reaching a total of 1.64 million.

Economists have been surprised by the strength in housing in 2001, a year in which the country dipped into a recession in March, the first downturn in a decade.

Normally, housing is one of the hardest hit industries during an economic downturn as rising job losses force consumers to cut back on big-ticket purchases such as new homes.

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