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New Construction Starts Jump 14 Percent in September


Public Works Falls 6 Percent; Highway and Bridge Construction Descends 6 Percent.

The value of new construction starts in September soared 14 percent from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $814.8 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics.

Highway and bridge construction descended 6 percent.

The nonresidential building sector strengthened for the second month in a row, climbing 37 percent with the boost coming from the start of a $6.0 billion ethane cracker plant in western Pennsylvania plus two projects in New York – the $4.0 billion Delta Airlines new terminal facility at LaGuardia Airport and the $1.7 billion 50 Hudson Yards office tower in Manhattan.

Residential building in September edged up 1 percent, as both single-family and multifamily housing registered modest gains. Running counter in September was a 3 percent drop for nonbuilding construction, with decreased activity for its public works segment.

“The pattern of construction starts on a monthly basis has occasionally been subject to ‘spikes,’ due to the presence of unusually large projects in a given month, and September certainly qualifies as one of those monthly spikes,” stated Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “Looking at the data on quarterly basis helps to ease the volatility present in the monthly statistics, and it shows the third quarter rebounding 8 percent after a 9 percent decline in the second quarter, returning the level of activity to within 2 percent of the strong pace achieved during the first three months of this year. As the current expansion for construction has matured, there’s been more of an up-and-down pattern on a quarterly basis, including what’s been reported so far during 2017. What does stand out about the construction industry in 2017 is the strength shown by nonresidential building, led by such institutional project types as transportation terminals and educational facilities. On the commercial side, office buildings and warehouses continue to see growth, although hotel construction appears to have peaked and store construction has generally weakened. And, with this year’s pickup in petrochemical plant starts, following a steep two-year decline, the manufacturing building category is no longer exerting a downward pull on the nonresidential building total.”

Nonresidential Building 

Nonresidential building in September was $368.8 billion (annual rate), a 37 percent gain compared to its August amount. The manufacturing building category surged 490 percent from subdued activity in August, boosted by the $6.0 billion ethane cracker facility in Monaca, Pa., in close proximity to the Marcellus shale gas field. The next largest manufacturing project in September was a $280 million poultry processing plant in Fremont, Neb.

The institutional building categories as a group climbed 25 percent in September, led by a 145 percent hike for transportation terminal work. The $4.0 billion new terminal facility for Delta Airlines at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, which will replace Delta’s C and D Terminals, joins the $3.4 billion Central Terminal Building project at LaGuardia Airport that was entered as a January 2017 start.

Through the first nine months of 2017, airline terminal construction starts have totaled $14.0 billion, almost five times what was reported during the same period of 2016.

Educational facilities, the largest nonresidential building category by dollar amount, increased 14 percent in September. There were 10 educational facility projects valued at $100 million or more that reached groundbreaking in September, including a $243 million neuroscience building at the University of California San Francisco, the $200 million renovation of the Mid-Manhattan Library in New York, and a $150 million high school in Germantown, Md.

Healthcare facilities in September retreated 2 percent, although the latest month did include a $550 million medical center in St. Louis, a $183 million hospital in Frisco, Texas, and a $176 million medical center expansion in Vail, Colo.

The smaller institutional project types showed a mixed performance in September. The public buildings category climbed 42 percent with the help of a $113 million criminal justice center complex in Nashville and a $91 million U.S. Land Port of Entry facility at Alexandria Bay, N.Y.

Declines were reported in September for religious buildings, down 5 percent; and amusement-related projects, down 59 percent. The reduced amount for amusement-related work was relative to an elevated August that included the start of the $1.2 billion expansion of the Javits Convention Center in New York. Even with the decline, the amusement-related category in September did include several noteworthy projects, such as the $140 million expansion to the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

The commercial building categories as a group settled back 4 percent in September, following a 12 percent gain in August. Hotel construction dropped 45 percent from August which featured the start of several large projects, including the $342 million hotel portion of the $500 million Resorts World Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, although September did include groundbreaking for the $95 million Four Seasons Napa Resort in Calistoga, Calif.

Warehouse construction also weakened in September, sliding 14 percent after a strong August. On the plus side, office construction advanced 23 percent in September, led by the $1.7 billion 50 Hudson Yards office tower that’s part of the massive Hudson Yards development in New York. Also reaching the construction start stage in September was a $300 million office campus in Burlingame, Calif., and an $80 million office building in Culver City, Calif. In addition, gains were reported in September for store construction, up 12 percent; and commercial garages, up 2 percent.

Residential Building 

Residential building improved a slight 1 percent in September to $298.9 billion (annual rate), with modest increases for single-family housing, up 1 percent; and multifamily housing, up 2 percent. Single-family housing appeared to lose momentum in late spring, but now seems to be stabilizing with gains in August and September.

Multifamily housing has shown an up-and-down pattern so far during 2017, as its 2 percent increase in September followed an 8 percent drop in August. There were seven multifamily projects valued at $100 million or more that reached groundbreaking in September, led by the $235 million multifamily portion of a $290 million mixed-use building in New York, a $200 million multifamily high-rise in San Diego, and a $189 million multifamily high-rise in Jersey City, N.J.

Nonbuilding Construction 

Nonbuilding construction in September was $147.1 billion (annual rate), down 3 percent from August. The public works categories as a group fell 6 percent, retreating for the second month in a row. Highway and bridge construction descended 6 percent, although September did include the start of several noteworthy bridge projects, including $452 million for renovation work on the George Washington Bridge in New York.

During the first nine months of 2017, the top five states in terms of the dollar amount of highway and bridge construction starts were Texas, California, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York.

The environmental public works categories showed September gains for river/harbor development, up 41 percent; and water supply construction, up 18 percent; while sewer construction slipped 1 percent.

The miscellaneous public works category dropped 35 percent in September, continuing to recede from its exceptionally strong volume registered during the first half of 2017 that reflected the start of several major pipeline projects.

The electric utility and gas plant category improved 10 percent in September, and included the start of three large gas-fired power plants, with two located in Pennsylvania ($750 million and $700 million) and one located in California ($550 million).

 Monthly Construction Starts (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rates, In Millions of Dollars) September 2017

August 2017

% Change
Nonresidential Building $368,818 $269,799 +37
Residential Building $298,942 $294,906 +1
Nonbuilding Construction $147,071 $151,367 -3
TOTAL Construction $814,831 $716,072 +14

Year-To-Date