For 2020, construction began with 1.45 million units, up 4.8 percent from 2019 and the best pace since construction starts totaled 1.8 million units in 2006. That period included a massive U.S. housing boom that eventually burst, kicking off the catastrophic 2007-2009 recession.

Housing has been one of the star performers in the past 12 months even as the overall economy has been wracked by the spread of the coronavirus. Record-low mortgage rates and the migration of Americans to larger homes better suited for home offices during the pandemic has fueled demand.

For December, construction of single-family homes increased by 7.8 percent to 1.23 million units. Construction of apartments with five or more units fell by 2 percent to a rate of 437,000.

The Northeast was the only region in the country that fell, experiencing a decline of 7.2 percent. Construction rose 13.6 percent in the Midwest, 11.2 percent in the West and 1.3 percent in the South.

Google to pay French publishers for content

Google and a French publishers’ lobby said on Thursday that they had agreed to a copyright framework under which the U.S. tech giant will pay news publishers for content online, in a first for Europe.

The move paves the way for individual licensing agreements for French publications, some of which have seen revenues drop with the rise of the Internet and declines in print circulation.

The deal, which aims to provide a sustainable way to pay publishers, is likely to be closely watched by other platforms such as Facebook, a lawyer involved in the talks said.

Alphabet-owned Google and the Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale (APIG) said in a statement that the framework included criteria such as the daily volume of publications, monthly Internet traffic and “contribution to political and general information.”

Google has so far only signed licensing agreements with a few publications in France, including national daily newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro. These take into account the framework agreed to with APIG, a Google spokesman said.

Google’s vehicle for paying news publishers, called Google News Showcase, is another new product it has developed that allows publishers to curate their own content online. It is so far only available in Brazil and Germany.

Google and APIG did not say how much money could be distributed to APIG’s members, which include most French national and local publishers. Details on how payments would be calculated were not disclosed.

Software development services provider Sequoia Holdings said on Thursday its employees can now receive a part of their salary in cryptocurrencies, should they choose to. Under the new program, employees can elect to defer a portion of their salary into bitcoin, bitcoin cash, or the Ethereum platform’s ether, Sequoia Holdings said. Earlier this month, Bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, hit a record high of $40,000.

Instacart plans to terminate about 1,900 employees’ jobs, including the only unionized positions in the United States, representing a full embrace of the gig economy. The grocery delivery company already classifies most of its workers as independent contractors, whose ranks have ballooned to more than 500,000 during the coronavirus pandemic.

American Airlines is trying to sell some of the wine it’s not pouring during flights by offering bottles for home delivery. The company is aiming for $40,000 in sales through its Flagship Cellars program this quarter. Wine usage in its jetliners has tumbled 80 percent amid the unprecedented travel collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic, American said in an email Thursday.