Sales of new homes rose 5.7 percent last month to an annualized rate of 313,000 units, the U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday.

The increase, which followed four consecutive monthly declines, brought the annual rate close to the 316,000-unit level reached in April.

Even so, sales remain far below the threshold of 700,000 units annually that analysts say is necessary for a healthy housing market.

The median selling price for a new home declined in September by 3.1 percent to $204,400, the lowest point since October 2010. Though the figure was an improvement over August's 8.7 percent drop.

The number of new houses on the market remained stable last month at 163,000 units as the U.S. economy continues to struggle with 9.1 percent unemployment more than two years after the recession officially ended.

Fewer and fewer families are in a position to buy a new home and those who have the money can get a more attractive deal on an existing house, especially if the property is in foreclosure.

The uptick in September looks unlikely to stop 2011 from becoming the worst year for the U.S. housing market since the government began keeping track five decades ago.