The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 03, 2011

The world is flat in U.S. construction

By The Building Tradesman

New construction starts in April were reported at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $400.2 billion, basically the same amount as March, according to a May 18 report by McGraw-Hill Construction.

Nonresidential building slipped back, as did non-building construction (public works and electric utilities). In contrast, residential building in April registered a moderate gain, helped by upward movement for multi-family housing.

During the first four months of 2011, total construction on an unadjusted basis came in at $122.1 billion, down 9 percent from the same period of 2010.

“The pattern of construction starts has been essentially flat within a broad range for about two years now, and the past three months have come in towards the lower end of that range,” stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. “There have been a few positive signs in recent months, such as the strengthening trend shown by multi-family housing and the pickup for manufacturing plants. However, single family housing remains stalled, and the tough fiscal environment continues to dampen the prospects for institutional building and public works, even with the occasional support coming from large projects such as took place during April.

“More and more, it’s looking like the best that can be expected this year for the overall level of construction starts is flat activity.”

By geography, total construction in the first four months of 2011 registered this pattern – the South Atlantic, down 19 percent; the Northeast, down 13 percent; the Midwest, down 11 percent; the South Central, down 2 percent, and the West, no change.