After a sluggish 2013, the construction industry could see a gradual uptick in total construction starts in 2014, according the McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2014 Dodge Construction Outlook. McGraw-Hill Construction forecasts that total construction starts could rise by 9% next year to $555 billion, led by a solid housing market and improved opportunities in commercial building. Non-building sectors, especially electrical utilities, could be drag on starts in the coming years.
“It’s another step along the road to recovery, but on the painful to frustrating side at times,” says Robert Murray, vice president of economic affairs at McGraw Hill Construction.
McGraw-Hill Construction announced its forecast during its Outlook Executive Conference in Washington, D.C., Oct. 25.
The forecast banks on federal budget deliberations proceeding “in a more orderly manner,” which could enable the U.S. economy to grow by 2.5% to 3% in 2013. The government shutdown and concerns about potential default have been a drag on the economy this year. The U.S. economy is expected to grow by just 1.6% in 2013, down from 2.8% in 2012.
That retraction is underscored by recent construction activity. After 10% growth in construction starts in 2012, McGraw-Hill forecasts that the industry will see only a 5% increase in starts this year, reaching $508 billion.
As the construction industry has tried to recover following the recession, the residential sectors have led the way. Multi-family housing, particularly apartment units, began to tick up in 2010. The sector surged in 2012, rising 36% to $40.2 billion, but the pace has slowed. McGraw-Hill Construction estimates that multi-family residential starts will increase by 19% to $48 billion in 2013 and 11% to $53.1 billion.
“If you had to pick the star of the construction industry, it’s really been multifamily housing,” Murray said.
In terms of volume, the largest driver of current construction starts is the single-family home sector. The sector began to buoy total construction starts last year with a 29% jump to $125.8 billion. That pace is expected to continue, rising 27% to $159.5 billion in 2013 and another 26% to $201.1 billion in 2014. Still, activity remains far below historical norms, at less than have the volume seen at the 2005 peak.
“Is it where it had been? Not even close,” Murray added.
In commercial building, Murray sees “hesitant upper movement” as the sector sees steady but modest improvement. After a 14% uptick in 2011 and a 12% rise in 2012, that pace of growth continues at 15% in 2013 to $62.4 billion and 17% to $72.7 billion.