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New Construction Starts in November Slip 7 Percent


Nonresidential Building Pulls Back From October’s Brisk Pace; Highways Down.

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $789.3 billion, new construction starts in November decreased 7 percent from October’s elevated amount, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. Most of the total construction decline in the latest month was the result of nonresidential building pulling back 15 percent after its 43 percent surge in October.

Highway and bridge construction fell 33 percent.

There were eight very large projects with a value of $500 million or more (totaling $7.4 billion) that boosted nonresidential building in October. In contrast, there were just three very large projects with a value of $500 million or more (totaling $2.8 billion) that were entered as nonresidential building starts in November.

The other two major construction sectors witnessed slightly reduced activity in November, with residential building down 1 percent and nonbuilding construction down 2 percent.

“Amidst the monthly ups-and-downs, the construction start statistics show that on balance the construction industry expansion was still underway in 2018, although the rate of growth has slowed considerably from the 7 percent gains for total construction reported during 2016 and 2017,” stated Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics.

“Several features stand out about the pattern of construction starts during 2018,” Murray continued. “Nonresidential building through 11 months has stayed within 2 percent of the enhanced activity registered during 2017, reflecting a varied performance by project type. The commercial building segment revealed more growth in dollar terms for hotels and office buildings, with the latter boosted by the start of such projects as the $1.8 billion Spiral office tower in New York, a $665 million office tower in Chicago, as well as several massive data center projects. The institutional building segment has benefitted from more growth for educational facilities and amusement-related projects, but transportation terminal starts have settled back from an exceptional amount in 2017 to what’s still a healthy volume in 2018. Manufacturing plant construction has shown wide swings month-to-month, yet for 2018 as a whole this project type continues to trend upward. With regard to residential building, multifamily housing has seen renewed growth in 2018 after its loss of momentum in 2017, but single family housing has essentially plateaued following the advances registered at the outset of 2018. For nonbuilding construction, the public works segment has shown growth for highways and bridges, helped by the 2018 federal omnibus appropriations bill passed back in March, although pipeline construction starts have eased back from a robust 2017. New electric utility/gas plant starts, despite the occasional jump such as reported in November, have continued to trend downward over the course of 2018.”

Nonresidential Building

Nonresidential building in November was $279.9 billion (annual rate), down 15 percent from October. The manufacturing plant category plunged 71 percent from an October amount that was boosted by a $1.6 billion natural gas processing plant in Douglas, Wyo., as well as a $400 million wood products plant in Lexington, N.C., a $400 million natural gas processing plant in Watford City, N.D., and a $320 million biofuel refinery in Lakeview, Ore.

The largest manufacturing plant projects entered as November construction starts were a $213 million cheese processing plant in St. Johns, Mich., and a $120 million steel mill in Sedalia, Mo. The institutional building categories as a group dropped 23 percent in November after registering a 32 percent hike in October. The transportation terminal category plunged 73 percent from October that included the start of the $1.4 billion Terminal One building at Newark Liberty International Airport and a $655 million concourse expansion project at Denver International Airport.

Amusement-related work dropped 18 percent from October that included groundbreaking for the $860 million expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. Easing the amusement category’s November decline were the start of two additional large projects in Las Vegas – the $450 million Madison Square Garden Sphere performance venue and the $323 million Caesar’s Forum Convention and Meeting Center.

Decreased activity in November was also reported for healthcare facilities, down 8 percent; and public buildings, down 49 percent; while the church construction category ran counter with a 45 percent jump after a very weak October. Educational facilities, the largest institutional building category, retreated 6 percent in November despite groundbreaking for the $164 million Dayton Avenue elementary and middle school campus in Passaic, N.J., and a $140 million addition to the W.K. Kellogg Institute and Dental Building at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The commercial categories as a group climbed 14 percent in November, on top of the 47 percent increase that was reported in October, with much of the November boost coming from the start of the $1.5 billion Manchester Pacific Gateway complex in San Diego that includes two hotels, four office buildings, a parking garage, retail space and museum space. Hotel construction in November advanced 22 percent, benefitting from the start of a $573 million convention center hotel and a $70 million boutique hotel at the Manchester Pacific Gateway complex, as well as the start of the $241 million Omni Hotel in Oklahoma City and the $112 million hotel portion of the $200 million Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Hotel/Convention Center expansion in Cherokee, N.C.

The office-building category in November receded just 2 percent after soaring 121 percent in October, as that month reflected the lift coming from such projects as the $644 million office portion of the $1.3 billion Winthrop Square Tower in Boston. In November the office category included four office buildings at the Manchester Pacific Gateway complex valued at a combined $544 million, plus the start of a $750 million Facebook data center in Covington, Ga., a $530 million California state office building in Sacramento, Calif, and a $300 million Google data center in Henderson, Nev.

Store construction in November grew 26 percent, aided by $76 million estimated for retail space at the Manchester Pacific Gateway complex, and the commercial garage category rose 24 percent with the help of the $174 million garage portion of the Manchester Pacific Gateway complex. Warehouse construction in November advanced 43 percent, featuring the start of a $200 million warehouse center in Ontario, Calif., and three Amazon distribution centers located in Charlotte, N.C. ($167 million), Garner, N.C. ($166 million) and Las Vegas ($92 million).

Residential Building

Residential building in November was $327.5 billion (annual rate), down 1 percent from October. Single-family housing was unchanged from its October pace, staying basically at the plateau that’s been present for much of 2018. Multifamily housing receded 3 percent in November following its 20 percent rise in October.

There were 10 multifamily projects valued at $100 million or more that reached groundbreaking in November, compared to 13 such projects in October. The large multifamily projects in November included the $215 million Victory Park Apartments in Dallas, the $200 million Spring Street North block development in Seattle and the $160 million multifamily portion of a $190 million mixed-use development in Philadelphia.

 Monthly Construction Starts (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rates, In Millions of Dollars) Nov. 2018

Oct. 2018

% Change
Nonresidential Building $279,853 $330,788 -15
Residential Building $327,536 $329,720 -1
Nonbuilding Construction $181,957 $185,401 -2
TOTAL Construction $789,346 $845,909 -7
Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce