U.S. homebuilders slowed the pace of construction in January, breaking ground on fewer single-family houses ahead of the spring buying season.

The Commerce Department says housing starts fell 2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.07 million last month, down from 1.09 million in December.

Leading that decline was a sharp 6.7 percent monthly drop in starts for single-family houses. Still, building activity is moving at a much faster clip than 12 months ago as the economy heals. The U.S. economy has gained more than a million new paychecks in the past three months.

Economists say that strong job growth should improve home-buying and help more millennials leave their parents' homes for apartments. Builders are anticipating more renters as apartment construction surged 12.1 percent in January.