Construction activity continued to slide in July, according to data released this morning by the U.S. Census. Total housing starts slipped 11% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 965,000. Single-family starts dipped 2.9%, to a pace of 641,000.

Building permits, an important indicator of future construction activity, dropped 17.7% in July to a seasonally adjusted pace of 937,000 units overall. Single-family permits declined by 5.2%, to 584,000.

"The key statistics in this report are the single-family permits numbers since these estimates have a small margin of error, are leading indicators of future housing activity, and are not influenced by weather nearly as much as starts," said Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at research firm Global Insight in Lexington, Mass. "Single-family permits dropped 5.2% and were down—and trending down—in the South and Northeast, but flattening in the West and Northwest. July's single-family permits numbers point to further drops in single-family housing starts over the next two to three months—but they also hint at a possible rebound late this year."

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.