The Commerce Department says builders started work at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, down 16 percent from December. In December, construction had fallen 4.8 percent. The declines in both months were blamed largely on the weather.
Applications for building permits fell in January for a third month, dropping 5.4 percent to a rate of 937,000.
For all of 2013, housing construction rose 17.7 percent to 976,000 units, the best showing since 2007. Analysts expect further gains this year as stronger job growth boosts demand.