The Commerce Department said today single-family housing starts dropped almost 7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 707,000, the lowest in 17 years.

Since a peak reached two years ago, the department’s figures show single-family housing starts are off more than 60 percent.

Meanwhile, building permits for single-family homes, a leading indicator of future construction, dropped just over 6 percent last month, also a 17-year low.

Overall, total housing permits fell almost 8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 978,000, the biggest monthly decline in 13 years and the lowest annual rate since fall of 1991.

In the past year, housing starts are down 28 percent. Single-family starts are down 40.5 percent. Building permits are down 36.5 percent in the past year, while single-family permits are down 42 percent, the biggest drop in 26 years.