WASHINGTON -- Sales of new single-family houses climbed 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 996,000 units last month from a downwardly revised 977,000 in July -- a record level -- the Commerce Department reported today.

Sales were strong in the West, rising 7.4 percent, and in the South, where activity climbed 1.3 percent. The sales level was unchanged in the Midwest but fell 9.5 percent in the Northeast.