Through the first eight months of this year, construction starts totaled $274.8 billion, down 33% from 2008, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, of which ENR is a unit. However, on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, starts in August were up 2% over July, as the public-works sector started to see “early signs of support from federal stimulus funding,” says Robert Murray, MHC senior vice president and chief economist. The non-residential building market has eased from severe declines in late 2008 and early 2009, he says. But that market “still faces considerable constraints, such as mounting vacancies, tight bank lending standards and eroding state fiscal health,” Murray adds. Housing appears to have bottomed out, moving upward in six of the past seven months.