Housing starts, though dipping 1.1 percent in July from June, were up 14.2 percent on a year-over-year basis, continuing a steady upward trend.

July groundbreakings were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 746,000, down from June’s adjusted rate of 754,000, but up from July 2011’s rate of 614,000, according to the latest numbers from the Census Bureau.

Single-family housing starts were down 6.5 percent from June to July, to a seasonally adjusted rate of 502,000, but still a 17 percent increase from a year ago and 42 percent above their March 2009 bottom of 353,000.

July also saw the most single-family construction permits filed by builders (513,000) since August 2008.

The sustained housing-start improvement over the last several months “confirms that recent previous increases are part of a sustained trend, not a temporary blip,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist and head of analytics at real estate search portal Trulia.

Calculated Risk’s Bill McBride credits the lack of new construction during the housing downturn with helping spur a recovery this year.

“The record low level of completions over the last four years — and record low level of housing units added to the housing stock — is an important reason for the budding recovery in housing,” Mcbride said.