Housing starts rose 2.3% in the month of August as single-family construction strengthens; gains made were in the South and the Midwest, according to a joint report from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Total privately owned housing starts rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 750,000 from 733,000 in July, or 2.3%. Compared to a year ago, housing starts were up significantly, a total of 29.1%.

Sales of existing homes also are on the rise according to the National Association of Realtors. The group found that sales of existing homes have risen 7.8% in August.

Housing starts and sales of existing homes are important economic indicators for the construction industry. An improvement in housing starts means more jobs for construction workers; meanwhile, sales of existing homes help reduce inventory which increases demand for new homes.