"Urban high-rise multifamily apartment projects will continue at a strong pace through 2014," Hall says, adding that a shift from rental developments to condominiums could occur late in the year. Additionally, he says, health care and senior-living projects will provide opportunities to Southeast contractors.

National, Regional Numbers

These Southeast representatives certainly aren't alone in assessing the considerable uncertainty dogging the otherwise reviving construction industry.

In its 2014 Outlook, McGraw Hill Construction begins with this assessment of the uncertain recovery: "There's an expansion under way for the construction industry, but depending on one's perspective, it can be viewed in a variety of ways." Overall, there have been gains, the company notes, but some sectors have continued to "languish" recently, while others, such as multifamily, have been able to emerge from the doldrums.

Despite the uneven nature of the post-recession period, McGraw Hill is forecasting a more bullish pace of national construction activity in 2014. The company expects total construction starts to improve by 9% in the coming year, for an estimated $555 billion in new construction contracts—just under the $558.2 billion that McGraw Hill reported for 2008. By comparison, the construction industry publisher predicts 2013 will end up with about $508.1 billion in new contracts, or 5% better than a year ago.

As it is doing in the Southeast, the residential construction market will set the pace for growth, with McGraw Hill expecting a 23% national gain, and an estimated $254.3 million in new contracts.

On a more local basis, McGraw Hill expects a similar pattern for its South Atlantic region, which includes Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, plus Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. For this region, the company is forecasting a 16% overall gain in new construction for 2014, which should total nearly $123.4 billion. Residential will lead the way, with a 25% bump compared with '13, and an estimated $68.1 billion in new housing contracts.

South Atlantic-area nonresidential contracts should show considerable improvement, says McGraw Hill. The sector is forecast to generate more than $35.7 billion in new contracts during the coming year, which would equate to a 15% jump over 2013's estimate. Commercial and manufacturing contracts should provide the most growth within the nonresidential category, with nearly $19.8 billion in new work moving ahead during 2014, for a 26% increase.