Other large electric utility projects in May included a $369-million natural-gas-fired power plant in Anchorage, a $260-million re-powering for two units of a natural-gas-fired power plant facility in Long Beach, Calif., and a $100-million wind power project in Pennsylvania. In contrast to strength for electric utilities, the public works sector in May weakened 10%.

Highway and bridge construction plunged 20% in May, continuing to slide back after the strength shown at the start of the year. The level of highway and bridge construction is now reflecting the waning support from the federal stimulus act, as well as diminished state spending, given budget constraints.

Also showing weaker activity in May was sewer construction, dropping 28% from the prior month, and “miscellaneous” public works (comprised of sitework, pipelines and mass transit), which fell 18%. The public works decline was cushioned by a 55% gain for water supply systems, featuring a $174-million upgrade to a water treatment plant in California, as well as the start of a $100-million water treatment plant in Florida. Also providing some support was a 48% gain for river/harbor development, helped by the start of a $123-million wharf and surrounding area redevelopment project in California.

The 9% decline for total construction starts on an unadjusted basis during the first five months of 2011 was the result of reduced activity for all three main construction sectors. Nonresidential building in the January-

May period of 2011 fell 8%, due to a 21% slide for the institutional categories. At the same time, commercial building grew 9% year-to-date while manufacturing building climbed 156%. Residential building in the January-May period of 2011 dropped 13%, compared to the early months of 2010, when single-family housing was still being lifted by homebuyer tax credits. Because single-family housing lost momentum at mid-2010, it’s expected that the 2011 year-to-date performance for single-family housing will become less negative as this year proceeds.

Nonbuilding construction in the January-May period of 2011 slipped 7%, the result of a 25% reduction for public works combined with a 105% increase for electric utilities.

By geography, total construction in the first five months of 2011 showed shortfalls in four of the five main regions—the South Atlantic, down 17%; the Midwest, down 16%; the Northeast, down 15%; and the South Central, down 5%. The West was the one major region that was able to report a year-to-date increase for total construction, rising 3%.