Gains In Nonresidential; Pullback In Single-Family; Highways Inch Higher.
By Mark S. Kuhar
Total construction starts fell 2% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $853.5 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. Single-family construction posted a sizeable decline following months of strong activity, while nonresidential building and nonbuilding starts both gained.
Highways rose slightly higher.
“The pullback in single family construction starts was inevitable after showing exceptional strength over the past year,” said Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “Higher material prices, supply shortages, and a dearth of skilled construction labor were bound to catch up with housing and will ultimately limit the ability of this sector to show the same rate of expansion this year as it did last. Meanwhile, nonresidential starts are stabilizing and should continue to heal throughout 2021, however, this sector will also be challenged by similar issues facing the housing market that will cause its starts to be below pre-pandemic levels for months to come.”
Nonbuilding construction starts rose 2% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $189.5 billion. The utility and gas plant category rose 5%, while environmental public works and highways and bridges gained 2% and 1%, respectively.
The miscellaneous nonbuilding category dropped 3% in April. On a year-to-date basis, total nonbuilding starts were 6% higher than during the first four months of 2020. Starts in the environmental public works category were 37% higher, while miscellaneous nonbuilding starts were up 25%, and utility and gas plant starts were 3% higher. Highway and bridge starts were down 11%.
For the 12 months ending April 2021, total nonbuilding starts were 9% lower than the 12 months ending April 2020. Environmental public works starts were up 14%, while highway and bridge starts were up 1%. Utility and gas plant starts were down 34% for the 12 months ending April 2021 and miscellaneous nonbuilding starts were down 15%.
The largest nonbuilding projects to break ground in April were the $625 million Atkina Solar Power Power in Wharton County, Texas, the $530 million New York Energy Solution Transmission Project in Claverack, N.Y., and the $357 million North City Pure Water Facility in San Diego.
Nonresidential building starts rose 16% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $276.3 billion. Institutional building starts rose 19%, driven by education, transportation, and recreation buildings, while commercial starts rose 12% due to gains in the office and warehouse categories.
Manufacturing starts also increased in April, climbing 25%. On a year-to-date basis, nonresidential building starts were 17% lower than during the first four months of 2020. Commercial starts were down 20%, while institutional starts were down 18%. Through the first four months of 2021, manufacturing starts were up 13%.
For the 12 months ending April 2021, nonresidential building starts were 26% lower than the 12 months ending April 2020. Commercial starts were down 27%, while institutional starts were 18% lower. Manufacturing starts were down 53% for the 12 months ending April 2021.
The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in April were a $1.2 billion conversion of a storage building to an office project in New York, the $530 million Mickey Leland International Terminal in Houston, and a $325 million Amazon office project in Bellevue, Wash.
Residential building starts fell 12% in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $387.8 billion. Single-family starts fell 18%, while multifamily starts rose 5%. On a year-to-date basis, total residential starts were 24% higher. Single-family starts were up 31%, while multifamily starts were 6% higher.
For the 12 months ending April 2021, total residential starts were 12% higher than the 12 months ending April 2020. Single-family starts gained 20%, while multifamily starts were down 8% on a 12-month sum basis.
The largest multifamily structures to break ground in April were the $232 million Travis Residential Tower 1 in Austin, Texas, the $173 million 241 W. 28th St. mixed-use project in New York, and the $165 million Union Square Tower in Somerville, Mass.