Improvement In Nonresidential And Nonbuilding Activity Push Starts Higher.
By Mark S. Kuhar
Total construction starts increased 6% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $641.4 billion. This marks the second consecutive monthly gain in construction starts following the COVID-19 induced declines in March and April. In June nonresidential building starts gained 6% and starts in the nonbuilding sector moved 27% higher. Residential starts, by contrast, fell 6% during the month.
Highway and bridge construction starts were up 8%.
Through the first six months of the year, starts were down 14% from the same period in 2019. For the 12 months ending in June 2020, total construction starts were down 2% from the previous 12 months.
“Construction starts activity remains significantly weaker than year-ago levels, even though it has been slowly increasing since its nadir in April,” stated Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “May’s gain in starts was fueled by a handful of very large projects, but June’s gain appears to be much more organic in nature. Construction starts should continue to post modest gains in the months to come as the economy continues to recover from the shortest and steepest recession in U.S. history. However, the recent acceleration in new COVID-19 cases in states such as Texas, Florida and California is a significant downside risk to the economy and the construction industry’s growth trajectory.”
Nonbuilding construction rose 27% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $191.1 billion. Utility/gas plants moved 108% higher in the month due to the start of over $2.0 billion in renewable power projects (split between solar and wind facilities). The miscellaneous nonbuilding category rose 63% in June, while environmental public works moved 38% higher. Construction starts for highways and bridges dropped 4% during the month.
The largest nonbuilding project to break ground in June was the $1.4 billion Federal Way Link Extension in Seattle. Also starting during the month were the $600 million Golden Hills Wind Project in Sherman County, Ore., and the $438 million Athos I solar facility in Desert Center, Calif.
Through June, total nonbuilding starts were down 14% compare to the same time period in 2019. Highway and bridge construction starts were up 8%, while environmental public works and the miscellaneous nonbuilding sector were each 20% lower through the first six months of the year.
Utilities/gas plants were down 40% on a year-to-date basis. On a 12-month rolling basis, total nonbuilding starts were up 3% from the 12 months ending June 2020. Starts in the utility/gas plant category were 14% higher, while miscellaneous nonbuilding starts increased 6%. Street and bridge starts were 1% lower for the 12 months ending June, while environmental public works were down 4%.
Nonresidential building starts moved 6% higher in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $198.5 billion. Institutional building starts rose 15% during the month, while commercial building starts moved 4% higher. Manufacturing starts, however, fell 32% following the start of a $950 million steel plant in May.
The largest nonresidential building project to break ground in June was the $384 million Women’s and Children’s hospital tower in San Antonio. Also starting in June was the $306 million Aligned Energy Data Center in Ashburn, Va., and the $294 million renovation of SeaTac International Airport in Seattle.
On a year-to-date basis, total nonresidential building starts were 22% lower than the first six months of 2019. Institutional building starts were down 15%, while commercial starts were 27% lower.
Manufacturing starts dropped 38% on a year-to-date basis. On a 12-month total basis, total nonresidential building starts were 7% lower than the 12 months ending June 2019. Commercial starts have dropped 8%, while institutional starts were down 9%. Manufacturing starts are 9% higher on a rolling 12-month basis.
Residential building starts fell 6% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $251.8 billion. Both multifamily and single-family starts were lower during the month, with single family falling 7% and multifamily dropping 4%.
The largest multifamily structure to break ground in June was a $170 million mixed-use project in Jersey City, N.J. Also starting during the month were the $113 million Flower Mart Apartments in Mountain View, Calif., and the $100 million 509 4th Avenue project in New York.