U.S. homebuilders ramped up construction in April to the fastest pace in nearly seven-and-a-half years, providing newfound momentum for an economy that has struggled in recent months.

The Commerce Department says housing starts last month increased 20.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.14 million homes. That pace ranks as the fastest clip since November 2007.

Builders appear to have finally shaken off a turbulent winter that shut down construction sites and hampered growth across the economy.

Housing starts surged in the Northeast, Midwest and West, while slipping slightly in the South. Construction of single-family houses climbed 16.7 percent in April, while apartment building shot up 31.9 percent.

Approved building permits rose increased 10.1 percent from March to an annual rate of 1.14 million in April.