The rate of housing starts in September dropped to a 15-year low while the rate of building permits for home construction hit a 13-year low, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing units authorized by building permits dropped to 1.23 million in September, down about 25.9 percent compared to September 2006. It was the fourth consecutive monthly decline in the building permits rate.

The last time the rate had dropped so low was in March 1995, and the last time it had dropped that low for the month of September was in September 1992, when it reached 1.11 million.

This rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for season fluctuations in construction activity.

Regionally, the rate of building permits was down about 35 percent in the West, 26.4 percent in the South, 16.9 percent in the Midwest and 14 percent in the Northeast in September compared to September 2006.

The rate of building permits for single-family units was 868,000 in September, which represents a 28.6 percent decline compared to September 2006. That is the lowest level since April 1992 and the lowest level for the month of September since September 1992.

Housing starts reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.19 million in September, down about 30.8 percent compared to September 2006. The rate of starts had last been that low in March 1993, when it hit 1.08 million. The rate was the lowest for the month of September since 1992.

Regionally, the rate of housing starts dropped 34.8 percent in the Midwest, 33.9 percent in the South and 32.4 percent in the West while rising 2.9 percent in the Northeast in September compared to September 2006.

The rate of single-family housing starts dropped 30.8 percent in September compared to September 2006, and hit its lowest level since March 1993. It was the lowest rate for the month of September since 1991.

The rate of housing units completed in September, at 1.39 million in September, dropped 31.1 percent compared to September 2006 and hit its lowest level since January 1998.

Month-to-month changes in seasonally adjusted statistics often show irregular movements, the agencies reported, and it can take three months to establish an underlying trend for building permit authorizations, four months for total starts, and six months for total completions.

Statistics are estimated from sample surveys and are subject to sampling variability and nonsampling error including bias and variance from response, nonreporting, and undercoverage. On average, the preliminary seasonally adjusted estimates of total building permits, housing starts and housing completions are revised about 1 percent.

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