The Commerce Department on Wednesday morning reported a 6.2% drop in overall housing starts in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 895,000, 33.1% below August 2007 and the lowest level since 1991.

Single family starts were down less sharply from July, posting a decline of 1.9% to 630,000, 34.9% below a year ago.

Permits also were down sharply, by 8.9% from July to a rate of 854,000, 36.4% below last August. Single-family permits dropped 5.1% to a rate of 554,000, a 40.3% decline from the same time last year.

Completions in August fell 9.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 961,000, 35.8% below August 2007, with single-family completions down 17% to 676,000; 44.8% below the August 2007 figure.

Regionally, starts were down 14.5% in the Northeast, with single family down 8.6%; down 13.6% in the Midwest for all housing types but up 5.5% for single family; down 7.4% overall in the South with single family off 5.3%; and up 10.8% and 3.5%, respectively, in the West. Permits overall were down 21% in the Northeast, with single family up 7.1%; up 0.7% overall in the Midwest but down 7.1% for single family; down 9.9% and 7.2%, respectively, in the south; and down 7.1% and 4.1%, respectively, in the West.