The number of total construction starts fell in April following a 19% increase in March, reports Dodge Construction Network (DCN). The organization’s monthly industry indicator states that total construction starts fell by 4% in April to a seasonally adjusted rate of $1.04 trillion. A sharp drop in manufacturing project starts contributed to the decline.

“The construction sector continues to sweep its economic worries under the rug, even with inflation, unstable banking and the potential breach of the U.S. debt ceiling,” says Richard Branch, DCN’s chief economist. “While the presence of, or lack thereof, large manufacturing projects each month has made the data more volatile, the underlying trends point to a very healthy sector. However, this is likely transitory. The Dodge Momentum Index, which tracks projects entering the earliest planning stages, is falling, which should lead to weaker starts in the second half of the year–especially for the private sector.”

Year-over-Year Total Construction Starts

Year-over-year, total construction starts were 7% below the first four months of 2022. Residential starts were down 27%, and nonresidential starts grew 7%. For the 12 months ending April 2023, total construction starts were 11% higher than the 12 months ending April 2022. Nonresidential starts showed gains at 34%; however, residential starts hindered overall growth with a 13% decline.

Nonresidential Building Starts

Nonresidential building starts experienced a significant decline of 22% in April, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $383 billion. Manufacturing starts dropped by 68% in April. Furthermore, institutional starts decreased by 13% due to reduced healthcare construction. However, commercial starts saw a 5% improvement, primarily driven by increased retail and office construction.

Year-over-year, from January 2023 through April 2023, total nonresidential starts were 7% higher than in the first four months of 2022. Institutional starts gained 14%, manufacturing starts were 4% higher and commercial starts were up 2%.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in April were the $1.2 billion Hanwha Qcells solar plant manufacturing plant in Cartersville, Ga., the $650 million Group14 battery plant in Moses Lake, Wash., and the $600 million Mutual of Omaha headquarters in Omaha, Neb.

Residential Building Starts 

Residential building starts increased 12% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $373 billion. Single-family and multifamily starts remained strong, increasing by 14% and 10%, respectively. Year-over-date, total residential starts were down 27%. Single-family starts were 34% lower, and multifamily starts were down 10%.

The largest multifamily structures to break ground in April were the $549 million Mana’olana Place mixed-use building in Honolulu, a $500 million mixed-use building in Flushing, N.Y., and the $385 million 710 Broadway Apartments in Santa Monica, Calif.