New construction starts in January grew 2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $607.9 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics.

While housing saw moderate growth for the month, nonresidential building retreated slightly, as increases for commercial building and manufacturing plant construction were offset by diminished activity for institutional building.

On an unadjusted basis, total construction starts in January were reported at $40.6 billion, down 14 percent from the same month a year ago which featured the start of two massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal projects in Texas. If these two projects are excluded, total construction starts in January would be up 1 percent from last year’s corresponding amount.

The January statistics raised the Dodge Index to 129, compared to a revised 127 for December.

“The construction industry, as shown by the construction start statistics, seems to be gradually regaining upward momentum,” says Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “Last year construction activity proceeded at a healthy clip during the first half, followed by a 20-percent drop in the third quarter, and then a slight 1-percent rebound in the fourth quarter. January’s modest gain for construction starts is consistent with what was shown at the end of last year. On the plus side, long-term interest rates remain low in early 2016, and such market fundamentals as occupancies and rents are supportive of further growth by multifamily housing and commercial building.”

Residential building in January advanced 5 percent to $294.0 billion (annual rate). Multifamily housing in January increased 2 percent, showing further strengthening on top of the 22-percent jump reported in December. There were nine multifamily projects valued at $100 million or more that reached groundbreaking in January, with six of the nine located in the New York City metropolitan area.

Nonresidential building, at $180.3 billion (annual rate), slipped 1 percent in January. The institutional categories as a group fell 10 percent, pulling back from the improved volume reported in December. Healthcare facilities dropped 20 percent, as occasional gains such as the 11-percent hike reported in December for this project type continue to be followed by retreat.

Public buildings were down 5 percent, transportation terminals and religious buildings were each down 35 percent, and amusement-related work fell 49 percent. The educational facilities category climbed 17 percent in January.

The commercial building categories as a group grew 3 percent in January, following the 12-percent increase reported in December. Office construction led the way with a 29-percent gain. Warehouse construction in January increased 17, and hotel construction grew 14 percent.

Stores and garages/service stations fell back in January after December gains, retreating 10 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

Year over year, residential building was up 13 percent; nonresidential building down 5 percent and nonbuilding construction down 45 percent.

Total construction starts for January 2016 relative to January 2015 showed growth in three of the five major regions – the Northeast, up 36 percent; the South Atlantic, up 8 percent; and the Midwest, up 4 percent. Decreased activity was reported for the West, down 1 percent; and the South Central, down a substantial 53 percent thanks to the two LNG projects.

For the 12 months ending January 2016, total construction starts were up 6 percent, with residential building up 15 percent; nonresidential building down 7 percent and nonbuilding construction up 11 percent.

By geography, the 12 months ending January 2016 showed the following performance for total construction starts – the Northeast, up 19 percent; the South Atlantic and the Midwest, each up 5 percent; the South Central, up 3 percent; and the West, up 2 percent.