Homebuilders broke ground at an annual rate of 1.2 million new homes in December, an increase of 11.3% over November, beating economists expectations.

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Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The news, along with recent surveys showing higher homebuilder confidence, solidifies the narrative that homebuilders are finally ready to start producing in earnest again, more than 10 years after the peak of the mid-aughts housing bubble.

Trulia economist Ralph McLaughlin points out in a research note that when controlling for the number of households in the U.S., housing construction remains 38% below its long-run average. That means there is plenty of room for the industry to continue to recover.

Why it matters: At it's peak, the housing industry can contribute upwards of 18% to overall GDP. And home construction jobs are the sort of middle-skilled, middle-class employment that the U.S. desperately lacking. A steep increase in housing construction activity could be a huge boon for the economy in 2017.

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