U.S. homebuilding accelerated by the most in nearly four years in July in the latest sign the housing sector is emerging as one of the few areas of strength in an economy suffering a record slowdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Housing starts increased 22.6 percent - the biggest gain since October 2016 - to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.496 million units last month, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. Data for June was revised up to a 1.22 million-unit pace from the previously reported 1.186 million.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast starts would increase to a rate of 1.24 million units. July’s data exceeded even the highest estimate of 1.32 million units.

July’s construction pace was the fastest since February, the month when a record-long U.S. economic expansion abruptly ended as the coronavirus began spreading rapidly around the country, triggering business shutdowns and widespread stay-at-home orders. With last month’s increase, new home building is just 4.5 percent below February’s pace of 1.567 million units.

Check out the full article from Reuters here.