In this Aug. 25, 2010 photo, Bob Hohman, right, gets help from his nephew Charlie Hohman with a roof on his new home that he is building in Clarence, N.Y. Housing construction surges 10.5 percent in August as applications for building permits rise.(AP Photo/David Duprey)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Builders began work last year on the second fewest number of homes in more than half a century, as the weak economy kept people from buying houses.
Builders broke ground on a total of 587,600 homes in 2010, just barely better than the 554,000 started in 2009. Those are the two worst years on records dating back to 1959.
And the pace is getting worse. The Commerce Department says builders started work at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 529,000 new homes and apartments last month, a drop of 4.3 percent from November.
In a healthy economy, builders start about one million units a year. They built twice as many in 2005, at the height of the housing boom. Since then the market has been in decline.