A barometer of future building also dropped, falling to the weakest level in more than 25 years. Analysts blamed the renewed swoon on the financial crisis which erupted with force this fall, raising new anxieties among potential home buyers and making it harder for builders to get construction loans.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that construction of new homes and apartments dropped by 6.3 percent last month, a much bigger decline than the 1.6 percent decrease that had been expected. It pushed total production to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 817,000 units. That's the slowest pace since January 1991, when the U.S. was in a recession and going through a similar painful housing correction.