Housing starts jumped 11 percent in May, partially recovering from a huge 17.3 percent decline a month earlier, the government said Tuesday. The gain, the largest in more than a year, was spread across all regions of the country.

In advance of the report, some analysts had said the housing sector, after leading the economic recovery for much of a year, had reached a plateau that could last through the summer.The Commerce Department said construction of new single-family homes and apartments totaled 1.23 million at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, up from 1.11 million in April. It was the largest advance since starts rose 19 percent in February 1991.

In another report, suggesting a continuing economic rebound, the Federal Reserve said industrial production jumped 0.6 percent in May.

The increase marked the first four-month string of advances since last summer and was the biggest since output rose 0.7 percent in July 1991. In a section on capacity utilization, the report said the operating rate of the nation's factories, mines and utilities rose 0.3 percentage point to 79.0 percent in May.

The housing report showed that the April plunge was even steeper than the original 17.0 percent estimate. It was the largest since a 26 percent drop in March 1984.

The decline had followed four months of sharp increases, which analysts attributed in part to unseasonable weather that spurred building and relatively low mortgage rates that attracted buyers.

Despite the April decline, the first in seven months, starts for the first five months of 1992 were 27.7 percent above those during the same period last year.

Still, applications for building permits slipped 0.7 percent, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.05 million, for the third straight decline. Permits often are a barometer of future activity.

Many analysts believe the pace of housing construction will remain muted until builders are confident of buyer demand.

New home sales rose just 1.3 percent in April after falling 15.9 percent in March, the largest decline since a 20 percent drop in January 1982. At the same time, sales of previously owned homes slipped 0.3 percent for the first decline in three months.

Construction of single-family homes, which fell 10.9 percent in April for the second straight monthly drop, rose 9.8 percent in May to a 1.05 million rate.