New construction starts climbed three percent from April to May at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $729.7 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. The May statistics raised the Dodge Index to 154, up from a revised 149 for April.
The nonbuilding construction sector provided much of the lift. Residential building improved modestly and was helped by the multifamily segment, while nonresidential building fell sharply from April.
During the first five months of 2015, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were reported at $272.5 billion, up 25 percent from the same period a year ago. The Dodge Index over that period has averaged 145.
“The presence of unusually large projects, notably several LNG terminals and several petrochemical plants, continues to lift the volume of total construction starts above its underlying trend,” says Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge. “This lift from unusually large projects is expected to become less pronounced as 2015 proceeds, which still leaves total construction starts growing at about a 10-percent clip. Nonresidential building is witnessing a broader expansion this year, with its institutional building segment contributing to the upturn along with the strengthening trend already established for commercial building. Residential building is seeing further growth for multifamily housing although any upward movement by single family housing remains hesitant.”
Nonresidential building in May fell 28 percent to $208.1 billion (annual rate), pulling back after surging 58 percent in April. The commercial categories as a group increased 16 percent, as hotel construction climbed 90 percent after a weak April while office construction retreated 30 percent.
Residential building, at $258.9 billion (annual rate), edged up 2 percent in May. Multifamily housing improved 7 percent, regaining upward momentum after settling back during the previous two months.
The institutional building categories as a group increased 10 percent for the month. Educational facilities, the largest nonresidential building category by dollar volume, grew 8 percent. The healthcare facilities category in May registered a strong 34-percent gain, and the public buildings category rose 33 percent. On the negative side, the amusement category in May retreated 4 percent after a strong April. Decreased activity was reported for church construction, down 6 percent, as was transportation terminal work, down 25 percent.
The 25-percent gain for total construction starts on an unadjusted basis for the first five months of 2015 was comprised of growth for all three major construction sectors. Residential building year-to-date advanced 14 percent, with multifamily housing up 24 percent and single family housing up 10 percent. Nonresidential building year-to-date increased 8 percent, with manufacturing building up 38 percent, institutional building up 8 percent and commercial building down 3 percent.