U.S. homebuilding dropped in September, due in large part to the impact of Hurricane Florence on the normally robust market in the southeast part of the country, the Commerce Dept. said Wednesday.

Housing starts overall fell 5.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.201 million units for September, the department reported. By comparison, August saw 1.268 million units.

Starts in the south fell 13.7 percent for the month, reportedly the biggest decline since October 2015. Hurricane Florence hit North and South Carolina hard. Research firm CoreLogic estimates about $5 billion in damage resulted from the storm.

The midwest also saw the number of housing starts drop — 14 percent, according to the Commerce Dept.

Bright spots in the U.S. were in the northeast, where starts surged 29 percent, and in the west, where there was a 6.6 percent increase.

Housing has been a weak spot in an otherwise robust economy. Economists have largely blamed rising mortgage rates, which have combined with higher house prices to effectively put home buying out of reach for too many first-time buyers.