Sales of new single-family homes rose last month to the third highest rate on record, according to statistics released jointly today by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The government agencies reported 1.16 million annualized sales in February, an increase of 5.8 percent from January and a jump of 24.4 percent from February 2003.

Two regions registered sales increases for the month. The West, with a 28.5 percent gain, posted the largest increase following some setbacks in January, and the Northeast posted a 12 percent gain. The South registered a 1.2 percent decline from the month before, and the Midwest rate dropped 10.6 percent, following an upward bounce in January.

The median sales price of new houses sold last month was $205,500, while the average sales price was $257,200.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale at the end of February was 373,000, which represents a supply of 3.8 months at the current sales rate.

“These housing numbers coupled with record 2003 home ownership and home sales show that housing continues to lead the way in our rebounding economy,” said HUD Acting Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

HUD is a federal agency that implements housing policy.

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