The Commerce Department said Thursday that builders broke ground on houses and apartments last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000. That's 12.1 percent higher than November's annual rate. And it is nearly double the recession low reached in April 2009.

Construction increased last month for both single-family homes and apartments. And the pace in which builders requested permits to start more homes ticked up to a 4 ½ year high.

___

Subway 'crisis': Is footlong sub really 11 inches?

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ What's in an inch? Apparently, enough missing meat, cheese and tomatoes to cause an uproar.

Subway, the world's largest fast food chain with 38,000 locations, is facing widespread criticism after a photo was posted on the company's Facebook page of one of its footlong sandwiches next to a tape measure that shows the sub is just 11 inches long.

More than 100,000 people have "liked" or commented on the photo, which had the caption "Subway pls respond." Lookalike pictures popped up elsewhere on Facebook. And The New York Post conducted its own investigation that found that four out of seven footlong sandwiches that it measured were shy of the 12 inches that makes a foot.

___

US jobless aid applications fall to 5-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid plummeted to a five-year low last week, a hopeful sign the job market may be improving. But much of the decline reflects seasonal volatility in the data.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 335,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. That's the lowest level since January 2008, just after the recession began.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 359,250.

___

US rate on 30-year mortgage dips to 3.38 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The average U.S. rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage inched closer to its record low this week, helping to keep home buying more affordable.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform