WASHINGTON -- Sales of new homes jumped unexpectedly in December, the government said in a report showing a resilient market for new housing even as economic growth slows abruptly.

The number of new, single-family homes sold in December rose 13.4%, the biggest percentage increase in nearly eight years, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 975,000, up from 860,000 in the previous month, the U.S. Commerce Department said. New home sales in December were at their highest level since November 1998, when they reached 995,000.

The December figure was much higher than estimated by analysts, who had figured sales totaled an annual rate of 885,000 in December.