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Forecasts & Trends

October Construction Jumps 12%
going over blueprints

New York, N.Y. – November 22, 2011 – The value of new construction starts advanced 12% in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $469.8 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies.  Much of the upward push came from nonresidential building, which was lifted by the start of a massive manufacturing project as well as by broader strengthening across several structure types.  Also contributing to the total construction gain in October was a slight increase for the housing sector.  Meanwhile, nonbuilding construction in October stayed even with its elevated September amount, helped by the start of several large electric power plants.  Through the first ten months of 2011, total construction on an unadjusted basis came in at $355.6 billion, down 3% from the same period a year ago.

The October data produced a reading of 99 for the Dodge Index (2000=100), up from September’s 89, and the highest level so far this year.  “After registering an up-and-down pattern during the first seven months of 2011, the construction start statistics from August through October have, on balance, shown improvement,” stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction.  “Much of this has been related to the start of very large projects, such as October’s huge manufacturing facility and several electric power plants.  However, more sustained expansion for construction starts will require a supportive economic environment, which has yet to emerge.  Job growth remains meager, and bank lending has picked up only slightly. Furthermore, tight fiscal conditions at all levels of government mean decreased funding for a wide range of publicly financed projects, and this will carry over into 2012.”

Nonresidential building in October climbed 36% to $180.0 billion (annual rate).  The manufacturing plant category soared 740%, boosted by $3.0 billion for work on the Adam’s Fork Energy Project in Wharncliffe WV.  This facility, when completed, will convert regional coal into gasoline.  If the Adam’s Fork Energy Project is excluded from the October statistics, manufacturing plant construction would still advance, but at a modest 2% clip, while nonresidential building would be up 9% and total construction would be up 4%.  Office construction in October also posted a large percentage gain, climbing 58%.  Support for the office category came from the start of a $285 million office building in New York NY, which reached groundbreaking after being put on hold for the past couple of years.  Other large office projects that supported October’s office volume included a $200 million Facebook data center in Prineville OR, a $77 million operations center for the electric utility district in the Sacramento CA area, and a $63 million military office building at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.  Warehouse construction in October increased 34%, helped by the start of an $80 million distribution center in Rome GA, while hotel construction grew 4%, with the lift coming from a $125 million renovation to a convention center hotel in King of Prussia PA.  Store construction in October continued to languish, sliding 15%.

On the institutional side of the nonresidential market, the amusement-related category jumped 98%, aided by the $235 million renovation of the Cobo Convention Center in Detroit MI and groundbreaking for a $180 million sports arena in Lincoln NE.  Gains were also posted by the public buildings category (courthouses and detention facilities), up 39%; and churches, up 8%.  The largest institutional category, educational buildings, slipped 3% in October, although several large high schools did reach groundbreaking in such states as Delaware ($115 million), Connecticut ($81 million), Utah ($62 million), and Texas ($51 million).  Healthcare facilities in October retreated 8%, despite the start of a $275 million hospital at Fort Benning GA and a $132 million hospital addition in Danbury CT.  The transportation terminal category in October dropped 35%, following its heightened volume in September.

Residential building, at $129.7 billion (annual rate), grew 2% in October.  Multifamily housing continues to be one of the brighter categories for construction in 2011, as it climbed 5% in October.  Large multifamily projects that reached groundbreaking in October included a $95 million apartment building in Boston MA and an $86 million townhome complex in Maryland.  Through the first ten months of 2011, the top five metropolitan areas in terms of the dollar volume of multifamily starts were the following – New York NY, Washington DC, Boston MA, Dallas-Ft. Worth TX, and Chicago IL.  Single family housing in October edged up 1%, and has seen very gradual upward movement after retreating during the first four months of this year.  During the January-October period of 2011, the regional pattern for single family housing showed this performance – the South Atlantic, no change; the South Central, down 3%; the West, down 4%; the Midwest, down 7%; and the Northeast, down 13%.

Nonbuilding construction in October was reported at $160.2 billion (annual rate), the same amount as September.  The electric utility category continued to see robust activity, rising 35% in October.  Large electric utility projects that reached the construction start stage included $1.5 billion for work at Units 3 and 4 of the Vogtle nuclear power plant facility in Waynesboro GA, a $1.2 billion solar power plant in California, a $900 million solar power plant in Nevada, a $454 million hydroelectric facility in Kentucky, a $195 million wind farm in Kansas, and a $165 million wind farm in Illinois. Murray indicated, “The electric power category is on track this year to post a new current dollar high for construction starts, helped in particular by further gains for solar and wind projects.  However, with the expiration of federal incentives for alternative energy projects, next year is likely to see a slower pace for electric utility starts.”  The public works sector in October was mixed.  The sewer and waste disposal category climbed 53%, helped by the start of a $380 million weapons destruction plant in Kentucky and a $331 million sewer tunnel in Washington DC.  Water supply construction in October increased 8%, while river/harbor development edged up 1%.  Moving in the opposite direction, highway and bridge construction in October pulled back 28% from a strong September, resuming the downward trend for these project types.  The miscellaneous public works category, which includes mass transit and site work, dropped 11% in October, although it did include $302 million for work related to the Second Avenue Subway project in New York NY.

The 3% shortfall for total construction on an unadjusted basis during the January-October period of 2011 was due to weaker activity across the three major sectors.  Nonresidential building fell 6% year-to-date, as a 15% decline for institutional building outweighed a 5% gain for commercial building and a 52% increase for manufacturing building.  Residential building was down 1% year-to-date, with single family housing retreating 4% while multifamily housing grew 13%. Nonbuilding construction was also down 1% year-to-date, the result of a 17% slide for public works combined with an 87% jump for electric utilities.  By geography, total construction starts during the first ten months of 2011 relative to last year performed as follows – the West, up 8%; the South Atlantic, up 5%; the South Central, down 5%; the Northeast and Midwest, each down 12%.




Prepared by McGraw-Hill Construction Research & Analytics

Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rates, In Millions of Dollars

October 2011 September 2011 % Change

Nonresidential Building




Residential Building




Nonbuilding Construction




Total Construction





The Dodge Index
(2000=100, Seasonally Adjusted)

October 2011 .......................................... 99
September 2011 .................................... 89


Unadjusted Totals, In Millions of Dollars

10 Mos. 2011 10 Mos. 2010 % Change

Nonresidential Building




Residential Building




Nonbuilding Construction




Total Construction  





About McGraw-Hill Construction
McGraw-Hill Construction connects people, projects, and products across the construction industry. For more than a century, it has remained North America’s leading provider of project and product information, plans and specifications, and industry news, trends and forecasts. McGraw-Hill Construction serves more than one million customers in the global construction industry through Dodge, Sweets, Architectural Record, Engineering News-Record, GreenSource, and SNAP. To learn more, visit or follow @mhconstruction on Twitter.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies:
Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies is a leading global financial information and education company that helps professionals and students succeed in the knowledge economy. Leading brands include Standard and Poor’s, McGraw-Hill Education, Platts energy information services, and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has approximately 21,000 employees with more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2010 were $6.2 billion. Additional information is available at

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