(CN) — Construction of new homes plummeted in December, falling 8.2 percent as builders slowed construction of single-family homes, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
According to government statisticians, the monthly decline brought housing starts down to an annual rate of 1.19 million units.
Starts fell in all parts of the country, and nationally, building permits -- an indicator of future construction -- slipped 0.1 percent in December to 1.3 million.
The marked decline as the end of 2017 approached, came after healthy gains in groundbreakings in October and November.
Despite the monthly decline, housing starts in 2017 were their strongest in a decade -- a response to a hot housing market in which the number of existing houses for sale is small and getting smaller.
In a separate report Thursday, the Labor Department said the number of unemployed people applying for jobless benefits dropped by 41,000 last week to 220,000.
That is the lowest number of benefit applications in nearly half a century. The national unemployment rate now stands at 4.1 percent, a 17 year low.
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