WASHINGTON — In October builders responded to deteriorating conditions in the housing market by further reducing the pace of new construction and permit issuance in October to the lowest levels for any single month on record, according to figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Overall housing starts declined 4.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 791,000 units in Oct., which was the slowest pace recorded for any month since the government started keeping track in 1959. Single-family starts declined for a fifth consecutive month, by 3.3% to 531,000 units, which was the slowest pace since October of 1981. Multifamily starts fell 6.8% to 260,000 units.

Two out of four regions posted double-digit declines in housing starts for October, including the Northeast’s 31% reduction (which may have been accentuated by a recent building code change in New York City) and the Midwest’s 13.7% decline. Meanwhile, starts in the South eked out a gain of 1.5% and starts in the West bounced part way back from a major decline in the previous month with a 7.5% gain in October.

Issuance of building permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, was down across the board in October. Total permits registered a sharp 12% decline to 708,000 units — again, the lowest rate for any month on record since the series began. Single-family permits fell 14.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 460,000 units, the lowest level since February of 1982. Multifamily permits fell 12.3% to 241,000 units.

Regionally, permit issuance fell 23.7% in the Northeast, 3.7% in the Midwest, 13.5% in the South and 8.8% in the West. Read more.

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