US housing starts fell in August for a second straight month, another sign of the weakness of the American economy, the US Department of Commerce said Tuesday. Builders started new homes at an annual pace of 571,000 units, down from 601,000 in July and 615,000 in May. It was also slightly lower than the pace for the first half of the year. However, in a promising sign -- though from a less reliable indicator of the economy\'s health -- building permits issued in August jumped to an annual rate of 620,000, up from 601,000 in July and 606,000 in June, the department said. The construction industry, one of the key pillars of the economy, has remained in a deep slump since the 2008-2009 recession, with ultra-low interest rates failing to give a boost to the sector.