WASHINGTON — For homebuilders, it hardly feels like an economic recovery.

Nearly two years after the recession ended, the pace of construction is inching along at less than half the level considered healthy. Single-family home building, the bulk of the market, has dropped 11 percent in that time. And there’s no sign it will improve soon.

Builders are struggling to compete with waves of foreclosures that have forced down prices for previously occupied homes. The weakness is weighing on the economy.

Though new homes represent a small portion of overall sales, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Fewer new homes mean fewer jobs.

Skip Howes, a homebuilder in Woodland Park, Colo., has managed to stay in business only after laying off two workers in the past few years. He’s now running a two-man operation in the small town outside of Colorado Springs. The other man is his son.

But business isn’t picking up. Before the housing boom, he built as many as six homes a year. Last year, he built only one. This year, he’s had no home projects. “We’ve been holding on for years,” Howes said. “If I can’t diversify, and if things don’t improve, I might have to lay off my son.”

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new-home construction plummeted last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 523,000 homes a year. A big drop in volatile apartment-building construction pulled down the monthly figures. Tornadoes and flooding also disrupted construction projects throughout the South.

If the pace doesn’t improve, this year could end up with fewer new homes than last year and only slightly more than 2009 — the two worst years on records dating back a half-century. Those two years benefited from a temporary home-buying tax credit.

Higher commodity prices have increased the cost of nearly every building material, from lumber to roofing tiles to windows.

The nation’s largest homebuilders have deeper pockets. So they have survived the turbulent stretch by cutting prices and offering more incentives.

Small and mid-sized homebuilders haven’t been as fortunate. Many small builders are staying in business either by working on a few choice properties or focusing on remodeling and renovation projects.

Single-family home construction, which represents 80 percent of the housing market, has helped lead the country out of past recessions. Each new home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.