Housing starts fell more than expected in September to 817k, representing a month-over-month decrease of 6.3%, according to data released from the U.S. Department of Commerce on Friday morning. The drop pushes the number of starts to its second lowest level ever and lowest since 1991.

The previous month's level was revised down to 872k from a previously reported 895k. The consensus was looking for a moderate decline to 872k.

Single-family homes - the most important component in the report, accounting for four-fifths of housing starts - fell 12.0% to 544k, compared to the previous month's 618K. Single-family units have been falling for 16 of the past 17 months.

Multiple-family homes actually rose in the month with a pace of 273k, compared to the previous month's 254k level.

Meanwhile, building permits took an even steeper dive, falling 8.3% to 786k in September, down from 857k units in August. The consensus was looking for 840k permits.

Housing starts refer to the number of homes being built and provide a sense of how the housing sector has performed in the previous month. Building permits represent plans to construct new homes, an indicator of housing performance in upcoming months.

By Patrick McGee and edited by Stephen Huebl
©CEP News Ltd. 2008