The latest tally from the U.S. Department of Commerce showed housing starts in August at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 571,000.
The disappointing August rate -- analysts were expecting a pace of about 590,000 -- was 5% below July's downwardly revised figure, and 5.8% below the August 2010 rate of 606,000.
On an unadjusted basis, there were 53,000 housing starts in August, and 38,300 single-family starts. Both are down from last month and last year. In fact, the single-family figure is the lowest for August since the government began keeping track in 1959.
On the bright side, building permits in August were up 3.2% to a SAAR of 620,000. Compared with a year ago, building permits were up 7.8%.
Looking at the country's four regions, the most negative region was the Midwest -- down 29.1% in total starts compared with a month ago, and down 14.6% in single-family starts compared with a month ago.
The least disappointing from a building perspective was the West region. It suffered only a 2.2% decline in single-family starts compared with July, and was flat compared with August 2010.