At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $757.0 billion, new construction starts in May climbed 10 percent from April, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. The increase continues the double-digit swings that were reported during the previous two months, when a 16-percent hike for total construction starts in March was followed by a 15-percent decline in April, according to the report.

Each of the three main construction sectors contributed to May’s 10-percent gain. Nonbuilding construction rebounded 32 percent after depressed activity in April, lifted by an especially strong amount of new power plant starts and an $800 million light rail project in the Minneapolis area. Nonresidential building improved 7 percent, supported by groundbreaking for two very large manufacturing plant projects. Residential building edged up 2 percent, with modest gains for both single family housing and multifamily housing. Through the first five months of 2019, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were $295.0 billion, down 9 percent from the same period a year ago. On a twelve-month moving total basis, total construction starts for the twelve months ending May 2019 were 2 percent below the amount reported for the twelve months ending May 2018.

The May statistics raised the Dodge Index to 160 (2000=100), up from April’s 145. May’s reading was still less than the 172 reported in March, as well as the full year 2018 average for the Dodge Index at 171.

“The presence of very large projects frequently causes volatility in the month-to-month pattern of construction starts, and that’s certainly been the case during March, April, and now May,” says Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “Amidst the volatility, the pace of construction starts has on balance been sluggish so far in 2019, as activity has been generally lower than the healthy volume witnessed during the first half of last year.”

Nonresidential building in May was $266.6 billion (annual rate), up 7 percent following a 16-percent drop in April. The manufacturing plant category provided much of the lift, soaring 350 percent as two very large manufacturing plant projects were included as May construction starts—the $1.6 billion Shintech polyvinyl chloride manufacturing facility in Plaquemine, La., and a $600 million steel mill expansion in Osceola, Ark.