"We think Georgia and Florida are going to come back strong at the end of next year, and the Carolinas would come right behind them," Southerland says.

Florida definitely appears to be leading the way in the Southeast, with building markets showing considerable resilience in 2012.

McGraw-Hill Construction expects the value of the state's residential starts to end 2012 29% higher than in the previous year with an estimated $12.3 billion in new projects. At the same time, the Sunshine State's nonresidential building market should tally $6.9 billion in new contracts for 2012, or 14% better than 2011.

And while McGraw-Hill Construction has not yet finalized its 2013 state-level forecasts—or its final estimates for 2012 construction—preliminary data shows that Florida's growth in new construction starts could jump by more than 20% in the coming year.

Even so, industry officials there are tentative in their enthusiasm.

While noting the start of several major projects in the Central Florida area, for instance, Mark Wylie, president and CEO of the Orlando chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, said, "Design professionals are reporting a significant increase in workload. So there is cautious optimism about the coming year."

In South Florida, Brad Meltzer, president of Plaza Construction, Miami, sees multifamily and hospitality as the most promising markets for 2013.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Scott MacLeod, co-COO of Skanska USA, Atlanta, voiced a similar view.

"The economy is starting to improve, although slowly," he says. "The market in Atlanta is slowly improving, and we expect to see additional growth in 2013." MacLeod further cited recent announcements by Kia, Caterpillar and Baxter Pharmaceuticals to build manufacturing facilities as a cause for optimism.

"There definitely seems to be more optimism in Atlanta's commercial construction market," adds Bill Anderson, president of Associated Builders and Contractors. Anderson cited a possible deal between the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Falcons to build a $1-billion retractable-roof football stadium as a factor driving the industry's increasingly upbeat attitude.

According to McGraw-Hill Construction, Georgia—boosted by the start of Southern Company's Plant Vogtle nuclear project—will see its 2012 construction starts figure rise by about 72%. Consequently, McGraw-Hill currently expects that the state's 2013 total construction figure could drop by about 20%.

Georgia's building markets could surge in 2013, however, with residential poised to increase by more than 40% overall and nonresidential possibly improving by more than 20%.

North Carolina, meanwhile, may eke out a 1% overall gain for 2012, as increases in residential help offset an expected 29% decrease in nonbuilding contracts, according to McGraw-Hill Construction.

For 2013, North Carolina may prove to be the Southeast state that most closely parallels national construction trends.