Nonbuilding Construction

Nonbuilding construction, at $182.6 billion (annual rate), advanced 22% in November. The electric power and gas plant category provided most of the lift, jumping 363%, which reflected the $3.6-billion Dominion Cove Point LNG Liquefaction Project in Maryland, entered as a November start. Also supporting this category’s strong November volume was a $571-million natural gas-fired power plant in Virginia and a $280-million natural gas processing facility in North Dakota.

The public works group in November retreated 8%, pulling back after an 8% gain in October. Highway and bridge construction dropped 7% and sewer construction plunged 58%. On the plus side was a 31% increase for water supply construction, helped by a $150-million water pipeline and reservoir project in Texas, plus gains of 29% and 3% for river and harbor development and miscellaneous public works, respectively.

For the January-November period of 2014, nonbuilding construction decreased 4% from a year ago. The public works group was down 6% year-to-date, as highway and bridge construction retreated 13% from a very strong amount in 2013 that included several substantial bridge projects, such as the $3.1-billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.

Declines were also registered by river and harbor development, down 6%; and water supply systems, down 7%. Year-to-date increases were reported for sewer construction, up 9%; and miscellaneous public works (supported by increased rail mass transit work), up 6%. The electric utility and gas plant category registered a 4% year-to-date gain.

Residential Building

Residential building in November fell 6% to $238.5 billion (annual rate).  Multifamily housing retreated after its strong October performance, sliding 21%. Despite the decline, there were still a substantial number of large multifamily projects that reached groundbreaking in November, including eleven projects valued at $100 million or more. These were led by a $290-million residential tower in Miami, plus two apartment towers in Chicago, valued at $280 million and $217 million respectively.

Single-family housing in November edged up a slight 1%, essentially holding steady with the flat activity that’s been present since the end of last year.

Murray noted, “While there are signs that the banking sector is beginning to improve access to home mortgages, as shown by lending survey results, there has yet to be a discernible positive impact on single-family homebuilding.”

During the first 11 months of 2014, residential building grew 7% compared to a year ago, a much smaller increase than the 26% gain reported for full year 2013. Single-family housing was up only 2% year-to-date, reflecting this pattern by major region—the South Central, up 7%; the Northeast, up 3%; the South Atlantic, up 2%; the West, down 1%; and the Midwest, down 3%.

Multifamily housing revealed a much stronger year-to-date performance, climbing 25%.

By major region, multifamily housing showed this pattern—the Northeast, up 34%; the South Atlantic, up 28%; the South Central and Midwest, each up 23%; and the West, up 13%. The top five metropolitan areas for multifamily starts year-to-date were New York City, Miami, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago.

The 7% increase for total construction starts at the national level during the first 11 months of 2014 showed gains for all five major regions, to varying degrees—the South Central, up 15%; the South Atlantic, up 10%; the West, up 6%; the Northeast, up 2%; and the Midwest, up 1%.