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Economic Watch: Construction Starts Index Hits Highest Level of the Year

August 22, 2014

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New construction starts in July climbed 6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $588.8 billion, according to industry date provider McGraw Hill Construction.

Nonresidential building continued to advance, supported by yet another robust month for manufacturing plant projects as well as improvement for commercial building. The non-building construction sector, such as public works and electric utilities, also advanced. At the same time, residential building was unchanged from its pace in June.

For the first seven months of 2014, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were reported at $311.6 billion, a 4% gain compared to the same period a year ago.

The July statistics raised the Dodge Index to 125, up from a revised 118 for June, and marking the highest level for the Dodge Index so far in 2014.

"The construction expansion this year is getting more of a contribution from nonresidential building," said Robert A. Murray, chief economist and vice president for McGraw Hill Construction. "Manufacturing plant construction is seeing the start of numerous chemical and energy-related projects, consistent with the nation's growing energy sector. Commercial building is maintaining its upward momentum from low levels, while institutional building with its up-and-down pattern appears to be stabilizing after a lengthy decline”

He noted with residential building being limited so far in 2014 by the sluggish single-family market, the further growth for nonresidential building has been needed to keep the construction expansion going.

By geography, total construction starts in the first seven months of 2014 revealed gains in two regions; the South Central, up 18%; and the Northeast, up 5%. The West was unchanged from the same period a year ago, while declines were posted by the Midwest, down 1%; and the South Atlantic, down 3%.

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