New construction starts rose 23 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $530.0 billion, according to the latest report from McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Specifically, December saw gains in nonresidential building and nonbuilding construction, while residential construction maintained a steady upward trend, according to the report.

For all of 2012, total construction starts grew 6 percent to $463.6 billion, a moderate yet stronger rate of increase than what took place during 2010 (up 2 percent) and 2011 (up 1 percent).

“The year ended on a strong note, with December coming in at the upper end of the range of activity reported during 2012,” says Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. “The subdued activity witnessed during October and November suggested that the hesitant recovery for construction starts might be losing momentum, but December’s strength alleviates some of that concern. The 6-percent gain for total construction starts in 2012 indicates that the tenuous expansion for construction is beginning to gain traction, particularly after the basically flat activity experienced during the previous two years.”

Nonresidential building in December rose 33 percent to $189.0 billion, with a 53-percent gain in office construction. Store construction in December grew 37 percent, while warehouse construction rebounded 84 percent from November. Manufacturing plant construction surged 177 percent in December.

On the institutional side, healthcare facilities in December grew 12 percent, while educational buildings rose 4 percent for the month.

For 2012 as a whole, nonresidential building dropped 9 percent to $149.7 billion. The institutional categories fell a combined 12 percent, compared with a 11 percent drop in 2011. Educational buildings were down 14 percent and healthcare facilities were down 6 percent for the year. Additionally, public buildings and transportation terminals were down 13 percent for the year; churches were down 18 percent and amusement-related projects were down 21 percent.

The manufacturing plant category dropped 33 percent for 2012. Store construction was up 10 percent, hotels 14 percent and warehouses 15 percent, while office construction dropped 7 percent for the year.