New Construction Starts in December Rebound; Annual Total for 2017 Advances

New construction starts in December climbed 12 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $733.3 billion, bouncing back following November’s 12-percent decline, according to Dodge Data & Analytics.

December’s gain for total construction reflected varied improvement by each of the three main construction sectors. Nonresidential building rose 10 percent to $240.3 billion (annual rate), aided by the start of two large data center projects, while residential building edged up 1 percent.

For all of 2017, total construction starts grew 3 percent to $745.9 billion, which followed the 6-percent increase reported for 2016. The full year 2017 gain was dampened by a 35-percent downturn for the electric utility/gas plant category. If electric utilities and gas plants are excluded, total construction starts for 2017 would be 5 percent higher than the corresponding amount for 2016.

The December statistics produced a reading of 155 for the Dodge Index (2000=100), up from November’s 138. For the full year 2017, the Dodge Index averaged 158.

“After weaker activity was reported in both October and November, the December rebound for total construction starts eased the extent of the decline that took place during the fourth quarter,” says Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “On a quarterly basis, growth in 2017 was reported during the first and third quarters, while activity retreated during the second and fourth quarters, continuing the up-and-down pattern around an upward trend that was present during 2016. On the positive side for 2017, institutional building assumed a leading role in keeping the nonresidential building expansion going, reflecting elevated activity for transportation terminal starts and further improvement by educational facilities. Manufacturing plant construction starts strengthened, ending a two-year decline, and commercial building was able to stay close to its heightened 2016 amount.”

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