WASHINGTON -- U.S. housing starts rose in September, the U.S. Commerce Department reported, as the housing sector continued to display a surprising resilience in a rapidly deteriorating economy.

Ground breaking for new homes stood at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.574 million units last month, a 1.7% increase over the August rate of 1.548 million units, the Commerce Department said.

Housing starts were up 4.4% over September 2000. The rate of home starts exceeded analysts’ estimates, which projected a 1.512-million-unit pace for the month.