WASHINGTON – U.S. sales of new homes jumped last month to the highest level in more than two years, further evidence of a sustained housing recovery that could help lift the lackluster economy.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that new home sales rose 5.7 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 389,000. That’s up from a rate of 368,000 in August and the highest rate since April 2010, when a federal homebuyer tax credit inflated sales.

Sales have risen 27.1 percent in the past year. That’s the strongest yearly gain since February, although sales are still well below healthy levels.

The figures suggest the housing recovery is strengthening. The increase follows other reports that show home prices are rising more consistently, builders are starting to build more homes and sales of previously occupied homes are up in the past year.

Faster construction could help boost economic growth and hiring. And it could also encourage more people to put their homes on the market.

In September, builders broke ground on single-family homes and apartments at the fastest pace in more than four years. And they requested the most building permits in four years, a sign that many are confident gains in home sales will endure.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose this month to the highest level in more than six years.