Last month’s housing starts were down 12 percent from February and reached a 17-year low, according to a Commerce Department report released today.

Work began on an annual rate of 947,000 homes in March and permits fell to an annual rate of 927,000, down from a rate of 984,000 in February.

In other housing news, the National Association of Home Builders said yesterday housing starts would fall 30 percent this year. David Seiders, NAHB’s chief economist, said the economy is in a “mild recession.”