The rate of single-family housing starts dropped 20.3 percent in September compared to September 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today, while total housing starts dropped 17.9 percent.

Privately owned housing starts reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.77 million in September, which is about 5.9 percent above the revised August estimate. The seasonally adjusted annual rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in construction activity.

Single-family housing starts in September were at a rate of 1.43 million, which is about 4.3 percent above the August figure. The September rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 314,000.

Meanwhile, privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.62 million, which is about 6.3 percent below the revised August rate and about 27.7 percent below the September 2005 estimate.

Single-family building permit authorizations in September were at a rate of 1.21 million, which is about 6 percent below the August figure. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 342,000 in September.

Privately owned housing completions in September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.08 million, which is about 11.1 percent above the revised August estimate and about 7.2 percent above the September 2005 rate.

Single-family housing completions in September were at a rate of 1.73 million, which is about 7.1 percent above the August figure of 1.62 million. The September rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 316,000.

The Census Bureau and HUD noted that month-to-month changes in seasonally adjusted statistics can show irregular movements. It may take four months to establish an underlying trend for building permit authorizations, five months for total starts, and six months for total completions, the agencies noted.

Statistics in the report 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, according to the report.

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