Privately owned housing starts in the month came to 861,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis, down from a revised October figure of 888,000 housing starts.
Starts in November, however, were 21.6 percent higher than November 2011.
The department said housing permits for private projects rose to 899,000 in the month, up 3.6 percent from October and up 26.8 percent from the same month in 2011.
Residential project completions totaled 677,000, a 9.7 percent drop from October's revised figure of 750,000, the department said in a release issued jointly with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Housing completions were 16.1 percent above November 2011, when 583,000 home projects were completed.