Housing starts in November were up 24.3% over last year, according to the new residential construction report from the Census Bureau and HUD. (Unfortunately, that number could be plus or minus 20.1%, meaning starts could actually be up anywhere from 4.2% to 44.4%.)

But economists had predicted (FWIW) a much smaller rise, so the news is good for the housing construction industry.

The latest figures show an annual pace (that is, if November’s numbers were expanded to a full year) of 685,000 homes. At the height of the housing bubble that pace was closer to 2 million homes per year.

Many of this new construction was in multi-family homes, leading analyst David Ader at CRT Capital to suggest, “It’s possible this reflects an increase in rental demand … [so it's] not good news for single family home prices.”