A U.S. Department of Commerce report shows that U.S. home sales were down again last month, decreasing for the fourth month in a row as continued unemployment and foreclosures keep consumers cautious in the real estate market.

Sales Land Far Below Estimates

The new numbers from February mean that the seasonally adjusted rate dropped to 308,000, which is 2.2% below the January rate and 13.0% below the February estimates from last year of 354,000.

Breakdown by Region

The report, which was joint release of the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also looked at home sales by U.S. region. The highest drop in sales was in the Northeast, which saw a decrease of 20% in new home sales from January, followed by the Midwest, which saw an 18% drop. The West, however, saw a huge increase in new residential home sales, rising 20.8% last month.

Existing Home Sales Show Marginal Growth

While exisiting home sales in the Northeast and the Midwest rose slightly, it wasn’t enough to counteract the declines in the South and West, leading to a slight decline of 0.6% in existing home sales overall, according to a National Association of Realtors report.

However, it is the decline in new home sales and the fact that they continue to not meet last year’s estimates that are perhaps most troubling for the outlook on the U.S. economic recovery.  As long as potential homebuyers remain wary of the real estate market, even if the growth rate of existing home sales remains constant, there will be very slow growth in the U.S. housing market.

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