WASHINGTON -- Construction spending in September posted a better-than-expected performance, powered by the largest jump in housing construction in more than six years.

The advance spurred hope that the battered housing sector is starting to turn around and will provide support for the overall economy as it struggles to emerge from the worst recession since the 1930s.

The Commerce Department says that total construction spending was up 0.8 percent in September, much better than the 0.3 percent drop that analysts had forecast. The August performance was revised down to show a 0.1 percent drop rather the 0.8 percent gain first reported.

The overall increase reflected a 3.9 percent rise in spending on residential construction, the biggest jump in housing activity since July 2003. Economists believe that this sector is starting to rebound and should help support an economic recovery.