New data released Wednesday suggested the U.S. housing market is continuing its slow recovery from its collapse in 2008.

Sales of previously occupied homes jumped in August to the highest level in more than two years, the National Association of Realtors said.

They rose by 7.8 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million

The figures were reported the same day the government said U.S. homebuilders broke ground on more new homes in August compared to July, and single-family home construction rose at the fastest pace in more than two years.

Construction of homes and apartments rose 2.3 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 750,000 last month. That's up from 733,000 in July.

Single-family housing starts rose 5.5 per cent to an annual rate of 535,000 homes, the best pace since April 2010.

Still, the recovery is from a depressed level.

Sales of previously occupied homes remain below the more than 5.5 million that economists consider consistent with a healthy market.

'We expect starts to continue to grind higher in the coming months.' —TD economist Michael Dolega

And the number of first-time homebuyers, who are critical to a housing rebound, slipped to 31 per cent from 34 per cent.

"With new home prices well below their 2005 nominal levels, dwindling new home inventories, and mortgage rates flirting with record lows, we expect starts to continue to grind higher in the coming months," TD economist Michael Dolega said in a commentary.

Sales might be higher if more homes were available, the Realtors’ group said.

The limited supply is helping to lift prices. There were 2.47 million homes available for sale in August. It would take just over six months to exhaust that supply at the current sales pace. That’s the typical pace in a healthy market.

Wednesday’s positive reports follow other signs that there is a sustained recovery in housing under way.

Home prices are rising steadily nationwide. Sales of new homes are also picking up. And home builders are more confident and are breaking ground on more new homes.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index, released Tuesday, rose to the highest level in more than six years in September. Customer traffic and sales are at their highest levels since 2006, the peak of the housing bubble.

With files from The Associated Press