The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 26, 2012


By The Building Tradesman

U.S. construction jumps 5% vs. 2011

New construction starts in September climbed 16 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $507.2 billion, it was reported Oct. 17 by McGraw-Hill Construction.

Through the first nine months of 2012, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis came in at $349.6 billion, up 5 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

“The robust pace for electric utility and gas plant construction during 2012 has occasionally produced volatility for total construction on a month-to-month basis,” said Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction.  “If electric utilities and gas plants are excluded, the level of construction starts in 2012 would be up 2 percent year-to-date, helped by this year’s further growth for multifamily housing and the emerging recovery for single-family housing.

“As for the other construction sectors, commercial building has shown some strengthening during 2012. However, decreased activity continues to be reported in 2012 for institutional building, manufacturing plants, and public works.  Going into 2013, it’s not expected that electric utilities will be able to maintain the record pace witnessed in 2011 and 2012. It will be up to housing and commercial building to provide upward momentum, and the impending ‘fiscal cliff’ makes continued growth for these sectors less certain.”

Geographically, the Midwest sector that includes Michigan showed year-to-date gains for total construction up 6 percent. Two regions registered year-to-date declines for total construction – the Northeast, down 5%; and the West, down 9%.

Little change in workplace deaths

There was little change in the number of workplace fatalities in 2011 vs. the previous two years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Sept. 20.

Workplace injuries claimed 4,609 lives in 2011, vs. 4,690 in 2010 and 4,551 in 2009. The preliminary fatality rate in 2011 was 3.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, vs. 3.6 in 2010 and 3.5 in 2009.

Notably, construction fatalities declined to 721 in 2011, 6.8 percent fewer than the 744 in 2010 – and it was the fifth straight year for decreases in construction deaths. The BLS, however, said the decrease is likely related to the economic downturn.

Transportation-related accidents have been the leading cause of worker deaths, responsible for 41 percent of 2011’s on-the-job fatals. Falls, struck-by objects or equipment homicide and exposure to harmful substances and environments comprised other leading causes of on-the-job deaths.