U.S. housing starts and permits for future home construction fell unexpectedly in June, the government reported Wednesday, providing further evidence of a sharp slowdown in economic activity in the second quarter.
The Commerce Department said groundbreaking on new housing construction fell 9.9 percent to an annual rate of 836,000 units last month, the lowest level since August 2012. Housing starts in May were at an annual rate of 928,000.
Permits to build homes, a gauge of future construction plans, fell 7.5 percent in June to a 911,000-unit pace.
The volatile apartment sector accounted for the unexpected decline in housing starts and permits, suggesting that the housing recovery remains intact.
In June, starts of single-family homes, the biggest segment of the market, fell 0.8 percent to a 591,000-unit annual pace, the lowest since November. Starts for multi-family homes plunged 26.2 percent to a 245,000-unit pace.
Permits for apartments fell 21.4 percent to a 287,000-unit pace, but permits for single-family homes rose 0.6 percent to a 624,000-unit pace, the highest since May 2008.
The mixed housing-starts report was the latest indication that economic growth likely slowed sharply from the first quarter's 1.8 percent annual rate. The economy has been hit by tighter fiscal policy and slowing global demand.