EDITOR'S NOTE, 8/26/10: This blog was originally posted with information on construction contract activity through June. It has since been updated with McGraw-Hill Construction's data through July.

Overall, 2010 is continuing to be a frustrating one for many contractors and designers across the nation, and not the year of recovery some had hoped. True, there are certainly some firms and sectors that are doing just fine, thank you. But it's probably an understatement to say that the industry as a whole is still struggling. For example, according to the latest information on new contracts from McGraw-Hill Construction (publisher of Mid-Atlantic Construction), through July, 2010's overall value of new contracts for future construction is about 4% behind 2009's pace, with about $238 billion in new starts nationwide.

McGraw-Hill Construction utilizes three broad categories to track contract activity: nonresidential, residential and nonbuilding (the latter of which includes infrastructure and civil projects). On a national basis, the nonresidential market is down 14%, the residential sector is up 15% and the nonbuilding category is down 7%. It's a fairly common pattern for many parts of the country. (McGraw-Hill Construction includes the full value of new contracts in its figures, so these numbers are indicators of future construction activity, and not present work.)

Of course, that's just a national average. In the Mid-Atlantic region, 2010 contract activity is following a slightly different pattern, either in overall direction, or degree. In other words, on a state-by-state basis, the Mid-Atlantic's data indicates business is usually either much better, or much worse, than that national average.

Overall State-by-State Figures Through July, and compared to the same period of a year ago, the Mid-Atlantic states' overall numbers break out this way: Delaware - up 19% overall with nearly $779 million in new contracts; Maryland - after a dismal July, is now flat compared to '09's pace with a nearly $3.9-billion total; the District of Columbia - up by more than 200% to nearly $1.6 billion; Pennsylvania - with the most "average" overall figure, down 10% to $6.8 billion; and Virginia - down a staggering 48% compared to a year ago, to just more than $5.1 billion.

Nonresidential The Mid-Atlantic's nonresidential market is also (mostly) anything but average, and is a mixed bag across the region. Through July, new nonresidential contracts are up significantly in Delaware (an estimated 96% uptick), D.C. (about 6X '09's pace)  and Maryland (21%); however, they're down by double-digit percentages in Pennsylvania (-17%) and Virginia (-62%). (Once again, Pennsylvania is the most "average," with its 17% decline in nonresidential contracts roughly approximating the 14% downturn averaged nationally.)

Nonbuilding The region's nonbuilding market is also anything but average, and now entirely negative across the board. The value of Maryland's nonbuilding contracts fell 82% in July, bringing the state's year-to-date total for this market to nearly $839 million, or 34% behind 2009's pace. Market downturns are also being felt in the other Mid-Atlantic regions. The value of Delaware's nonbuilding contracts are down 34% with a $187.6-million total. In the District of Columbia, this market is off 2009's pace by 64%, at $78.7 million. In Virginia, nonbuilding contracts are down by 65%, at nearly $1.3 billion. Pennsylvania's nonbuilding market is experiencing a 10% decline, with about $2.7 billion in new contracts.

Residential The residential market is the only positive market, through July, for all of the Mid-Atlantic geographic areas. Delaware's residential sector has experienced roughly $238.5 million in new contracts, for a 24% improvement. Maryland has seen a 9% increase in new residential contracts, for a nearly $1.2-billion total. The D.C. residential sector has seen the highest percentage gain, with a 79% improvement and nearly $133 million in new contracts. Pennsylvania's residential market has experienced a 6% increase in new contracts, for a $1.6-billion total. Finally, Virginia's residential sector is up 9%, at $2.3 billion.

Of course, time will tell how these trends hold up. The last half of 2010 remains a question mark, so we'll keep an eye on future contract numbers.

What are your thoughts? Let us know, and offer your comments below.

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