US housing starts tumble 3 percent in August; sharp drops in Northeast and Midwest

Builders broke ground on fewer houses and apartment complexes in August, a possible sign that the housing market may be levelling off after accelerating for much of the year.

The Commerce Department says housing starts last month fell 3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.13 million homes. Construction activity slowed sharply in the Northeast and Midwest.

Still, housing starts have climbed a solid 11.3 percent this year to date. Steady job gains of 2.9 million in the past year are contributing to increased demand from buyers and renters, as home construction has begun to fuel further economic growth. Builders last month continued to prepare for the influx by filing more construction permits.

Approved permits rose 3.5 percent in August to an annual rate of 1.17 million.