POOR YEAR: December capped a third straight year of depressed home building and the worst on record for single-family construction. Builders started just 606,900 homes, about half the number that economists equate with healthy markets.
WEAKER MONTH: Builders broke ground last month on a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 657,000 homes, the Commerce Department said Thursday. A third straight increase in single-family home building was offset by a drop in volatile apartment construction.
OUTLOOK: Modest improvement at the end of the year lifted hopes for an eventual recovery. But the housing market still appears years away from full health.