House-building permits and housing starts dropped nationally in August, according to statistics out today from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. In August, building permits were at a rate of 2,124,000, a 2.2 percent drop from July. Still, that August number is 3.2 percent higher than the rate in August 2004. Housing starts this August, also, were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 2,009,000, 1.3 percent below the July rate, and nearly 1 percent below the rate in August 2004. HUD, however, noted that months generally have to pass before any trend in housing permits and starts can be established.