Residential Building

Residential building, at $199.9 billion (annual rate), dropped 4% in June.  Multifamily housing fell 20%, after moving at a particularly fast clip during the first five months of this year. The June level for multifamily housing was still relatively healthy by recent standards—just 2% below its average monthly pace during 2012. Large multifamily projects that reached groundbreakingin June included a $140-million residential tower in Boston, a $125-million residential tower in Jersey City, N.J., the $91-million apartment portion of the Chinese Foreign Mission and Residential Building in Washington, D.C., and an $85-million apartment complex in Fredericksburg, Va.

Single-family housing in June edged up 1%, maintaining the strengthening trend that’s been present since mid-2011. The June amount for single-family housing was up 29% from its average monthly pace during 2012.

At the six-month mark of 2013, residential building in dollar terms advanced 28% from the first half of 2012, with single-family housing climbing 31% while multifamily housing grew 19%. For single-family housing, the year-to-date gains were widespread by geography, with all five major regions of the U.S. reporting double-digit increases compared to a year ago—the South Atlantic, up 42%; the West, up 33%; the Midwest, up 31%; the Northeast, up 24%; and the South Central, up 21%.

For multifamily housing, the top five metropolitan markets during the first half of 2013 ranked by the dollar amount of new projects (with the percent change from a year ago) were: New York City, up 51%; Washington, D.C., down 4%; Miami, up 59%; Boston, up 46%; and Los Angeles, down 52%.  Multifamily metropolitan markets ranked 6 through 10 during the first half of 2013 were: Denver, up 55%; Atlanta, up 127%; Chicago, up 77%; Phoenix, up 98%; and Dallas-Ft. Worth, down 20%.

Nonbuilding Construction

Nonbuilding construction in June increased 4% to $138.3 billion (annual rate). The public works portion of nonbuildingconstruction jumped 38%, led by a 164% surge for bridge construction. The largest project that lifted the bridge total for June was $1.6 billion for work on the Ohio River bridges in the Louisville and southern Indiana area. Other large bridge projects that were reported as June construction starts were the $255-million restoration of the Longfellow Bridge in Boston, a $209-million bridge as part of the Grand Parkway expansion in the Houston area, and the $93-million deck replacement for the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge in Beacon, N.Y.

Highway construction in June advanced 25% from the previous month, boosted by $832 million for work on Houston’s Grand Parkway project.  The miscellaneous public works category, which includes such diverse project types as pipelines and sitework, climbed 60% in June. Large projects aiding the miscellaneous public works total included a $350-million natural gas pipeline in Maine and $150 million for pilings at the site of the upcoming Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project in the Tarrytown, N.Y. area.

On the environmental side, sewer-related construction increased 63% from a weak May, helped by the start of a $163-million biosolids handling plant in Irvine CA.  River/harbor development in June retreated 9%, despite $122 million for phase 3 of the Miami FL harbor deepening project, while water supply construction dropped 37%.  Electric utility construction in June fell 78%, running counter to the general strength shown by public works.

For the first six months of 2013, nonbuilding construction dropped 24% compared to last year. The electric utility category plunged 70%, reflecting the comparison to the first half of 2012 that included $8.5 billion for Units 3 and 4 at the Vogtle nuclear power facility in Georgia, $8.5 billion for Units 2 and 3 at the V.C. Summer nuclear power facility in South Carolina, plus several very large gas-fired, solar, and wind power facilities.

Public works construction in the first six months of 2013 increased 6%.  Highways and bridges strengthened relative to a sluggish first half of 2012, rising 10% and 27% respectively. Year-to-date gains were also reported for river/harbor development, up 20%; and water supply systems, up 14%.  Declines relative to the first half of last year were reported for sewers, down 11%; and miscellaneous public works, down 12%.

The 2% downturn for total construction starts at the U.S. level during the first six months of 2013 came from a varied pattern by geography. Greater activity for total construction was reported for the South Central, up 8%; the Northeast, up 7%; and the West, up 4%. Decreased activity for total construction was reported for the Midwest, down 5%; and the South Atlantic, down 18%. If electric utilities are excluded from the construction start statistics in the South Atlantic, that region would register a 21% year-to-date gain.