The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 03, 2012


By The Building Tradesman

At the half, U.S. construction rises

New U.S. construction starts in June slipped 1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $446.1 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. However, for the first six months of 2012, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis came in at $225.0 billion, up 4 percent from the same half-year period a year ago.

After elevated activity that was reported during March and April, total construction in May and June returned to a level just slightly above the average monthly pace reported during the previous year.

June featured a moderate loss of momentum for nonresidential building, while residential building in June maintained its gradual upward trend. Non-building construction was unchanged as the result of divergent behavior by public works (down) and electric utility work (up).

Construction starts “show gains for some project types but further weakness for other project types,” said Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. “Total construction activity had jumped in March and April, due primarily to the start of two massive nuclear power projects. Aside from that lift… total construction activity during the first half of 2012 has basically shown a hesitant up-and-down pattern.

“On the plus side, gains are being reported for several commercial building categories, and the strengthening trend for multifamily housing is now being

joined by moderate growth for single family housing. On the negative side, such institutional project types as educational buildings and healthcare facilities continue to weaken, along with further declines for several public works categories.”

Transit spending way down in 2010

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on July 23 that the Federal Department of Transportation is allotting $787 million for 255 transit modernization and repair projects across the nation. The release of the money, while welcome, illustrates a major problem with the construction economy: the reduced amount of federal spending on infrastructure work.

Comparatively, in 2010 the U.S. allotted $1.8 billion for transit projects.

“By investing in the transit infrastructure people depend on to get where we need to go each day, we will keep our economy moving forward well into the future,” Lahood said.                     Responded We Party Patriots, a pro-worker blog: “As our nation’s infrastructure continues to ungraciously age, many see transportation spending as the prime opportunity to rebuild the economy.

“While $787 million is likely to help many small projects come to fruition, it is not the all-encompassing figure needed to combat the problem of rapid, national infrastructure decay.”

Rebuilding and improving the nation’s transportation infrastructure is one of subjects in Congress that both parties say is a good idea – in good part because of the greater employment – but the allocating money part never seems to get done.