March construction starts jump 3%

News McGraw-Hill Construction May 05, 2004
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New construction starts in March increased 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $537

New construction starts in March increased 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $537.2 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of the McGraw-Hill Cos. Gains were reported for nonresidential building and nonbuilding construction, while residential building eased slightly from a robust February.


The March data produced a 162 reading for the Dodge Index, up from a revised 158 for February. Construction activity had experienced a mild loss of momentum at the start of 2004, when the Dodge Index slipped to 155 before showing renewed growth during February and March.


"The construction industry has been supported for quite some time by the exceptional strength of single family housing," said Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. "In March, single family housing remained at a very high level, but it was other sectors that provided the upward push to total construction."


At $87.2 billion, nonbuilding construction advanced 15% in March. Highway building was up 5%, but bridge activity was down 25%.


"Transportation public works has been generally weaker during the early months of 2004 as the result of several factors," said Murray. "These include the delay in getting a new multiyear federal transportation bill passed, plus the dislocations caused by this year's large increase in steel prices."


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