The rate of U.S. single-family housing starts and single-family units authorized by building permits dropped to the lowest level since 1991 in October, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of single-family housing starts dropped to 884,000 in October, down about 21.5 percent compared to October 2006. It was the lowest level since single-family starts dropped to a rate of 878,000 in October 1991.

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

Total housing starts, including single-family starts and starts for structures with two or more units, dropped to a rate of 1.23 million in October, down about 16.4 percent compared to October 2006.

Single-family building-permit authorizations dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 807,000 in October, down about 31 percent compared to October 2006. It was the lowest rate since November 1991, when the single-family building-permit rate reached 789,000.

The total rate of building-permit authorizations fell to 1.18 million in October, which was down about 24.5 percent compared to October 2006 and was the lowest level since July 1993 when it was 1.17 million. The monthly total building-permit rate has fallen for five consecutive months, while the single-family building-permit rate has dropped for seven consecutive months.

Building-permit authorizations of units in buildings with five or more units reached a rate of 330,000 in October, which was up 1.5 percent compared to the October 2006 rate.

Housing completions in October were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.44 million, which is down about 25.2 percent compared to the October 2006 rate. The rate of single-family completions was 1.16 million in October, which is down about 25.8 percent compared to October 2006.

The agencies noted that month-to-month changes in seasonally adjusted statistics can show irregular movements, 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 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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