WASHINGTON — Groundbreaking for new homes fell to a 571,000-unit seasonally adjusted annual rate in August, down 5.0% from July. Building permits were up 3.2% to 620,000.

Starts for July were revised to 601,000 from the 604,000 reported last month and building permits were also revised to 601,000 from the 597,000 initially reported.

Economists expected both housing starts and building permits to be at a 590,000 level in August, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Starts for single-family homes slid 1.4%. Multifamily starts fell 12.4%. Single-family permits rose 2.5% for August. Multifamily permits were up just 0.6%.

Hurricane Irene was likely responsible for a 29.1% drop in Northeast starts, with a 14.6% decline in single-family starts. Single-family starts of 33,000 units were a record low for the Northeast.

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