New home construction and building permits plunged more than expected in January amid severe winter weather in large parts of the US, official data released today showed.

US housing starts slumped 16% from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 80,000, the Commerce Department said.

The decline was broad-based, including a 15.9% drop in starts on single-family homes, the largest part of the US housing market.

New construction of multi-family structures of five units or more fell by 12.8% over the month.

US building permits in January also dropped to a rate of 937,000, down 5.4% from December.

The report came in well below analysts' expectations. The consensus estimate was 963,000 starts and 980,000 building permits, an indicator of future construction.

The wintry blast of cold and snow storms across parts of the country weighed on the home construction sector, notably in the Midwest, where starts fell to a record low, the Commerce Department said.

On an annual basis, starts fell 2% from January 2013, to 898,000, the lowest level since August 2011. Building permits, however, were up 2.4% from a year ago.