Sales of new single-family houses in May 2011 came in at a seasonally adjusted pace of 319,000, beating Wall Street estimates of a rate of 310,000 but 2.1% behind the revised April pace of 326,000, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Wednesday. Sales, however, were up 13.5% from the annual pace of 281,000 recorded in May of last year.

Builder stocks were mixed as the overall market tumbled after a disappointing report on initial jobless claims.

Prices increased, with the median for a new single-family home rising to $222,600 from $217,000 in April and the average inching up to $266,400 from $265,000. Both were down year-over-year, however, from a median of $230,500 and an average of $281,100 last May.

Inventory fell slightly, from a 6.3 month supply in April to 6.2 months in May, but declined markedly from May of last year, by 32.6% from 9.2 months.Median months on the market ticked up to 9.2 from 8.9 in April, down from 14 in May, 2010.

The usually volatile Northeast, for which data is often unreliable due to a small sample size, led the decline with a precipitous drop of 26.7% to an annual pace of 22,000 homes, 18.5% below the pace at the same time last year.

The Midwest was flat with April at an annual pace of 42,000 homes, 5% ahead of last May. Sales in the South were up 2.4% to a pace of 172,000, 13.9% ahead of May 2010. The West was down 3.5% from April to a pace of 83,000, 31.7% above May of last year.

Not seasonally adjusted, 30,000 homes were sold nationally in May, 2,000 in the Northeast, 4,000 in the Midwest, 16,000 in the South and 8,000 in the West. New home sales, year to date, unadjusted, were down 13.6% from the same period last year nationally, with the Northeast down 21.2%, the Midwest down 22.3%, the South down 10.4% and the West down 12.7%.