Sales of new single-family homes continued their downward slide in October. The Census Bureau estimated this morning that such sales hit a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 433,000 last month, which is 40.1 percent below the rate during the same month a year ago, and 5.3 percent below the revised annualized figure for September 2008.

The number of new homes for sale in October was 381,000, or the equivalent of 11.1 months of inventory at the current rate of supply. The median selling price for a new home was $218,000.

Regionally, new-home sales in the Northeast were down in October by 41.5 percent, to 38,000, compared to a year ago; by 44.5 percent, to 71,000, in the Midwest; by 38.5 percent, to 233,000, in the South; and by 39.7 percent, to 91,000, in the West.

The highest portion of houses sold in October—31 percent—were in the $200,000 to $299,000 price range, followed by the $150,000-$199,000 range (22 percent), under $150,000 (18 percent), and $300,000-$399,999 (13 percent). The shares of higher-priced homes sold remained in the single digits: $400,000-$499,999 (7 percent), $500,000-$749,999 (6 percent), and $750,000 and above (4 percent).

The release of Census’ October data follows similar estimates about the state of the housing market that came out earlier this week about existing home sales (which actually stabilized last month, at least by unit count) and plunging home prices.

The lack of available credit—that both home buyers and builders have been complaining about more loudly in recent weeks—appears to be tethering buyers to the sidelines. The ongoing erosion in consumer confidence about the general economy isn’t helping matters, either, and is spilling into other sectors, as manifested by the 1 percent decline in consumer spending in October. That slide represents the biggest single falloff in consumer spending since 2001.

 John Caulfield is senior editor at BUILDER magazine.