Washington - The pace of U.S. home construction fell a sharp 4% in July despite strong demand from would-be buyers, held back by a shortage of skilled labor and affordable land.

The Commerce Department said Friday that housing starts slipped last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.19 million units. So far this year, housing starts have declined 3.1%. Though there was a slight 1.3% uptick in the construction of single-family homes last month, the gain was offset by a 17.2% plunge in the apartment category.

The construction slowdown, which has persisted all year, is thwarting prospective homebuyers. The solid job market and falling mortgage rates have boosted interest among people seeking homes, yet the shortage of available homes and rising prices have dampened sales. The slowdown in construction, which in turn contributes to the scarcity of available housing, may contribute to a weakening of the overall economy.... Read More: Vosizneias