Related Links: Full 3Q Cost Report (Subscription required) Construction economists continue to dial back their forecasts for 2011. Single-family housing, public works and the institutional-building markets have all stumbled badly in 2011, says Robert Murray, McGraw-Hill Construction's chief economist. The few bright spots, such as multifamily housing, manufacturing and powerplants, “won't be able to outweigh the minuses,” he says.Murray estimates that total construction starts in 2011 will come in at $408 billion, a 4% decline from 2010. Since ENR's second quarterly cost report, the forecast for total residential work has been pulled back from a 5% increase to a 2%
The market is generally healthy and steadily growing, and margins are up for large specialty contractors. Further, advances in design tools and owner demand for collaboration are giving subcontractors a seat at the table early on in projects.