Total Construction Starts Rise 10 Percent in September

Total construction starts rose 10 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $889.7 billion, according to Dodge Construction Network. All three sectors improved: nonresidential building starts rose 15 percent, residential starts moved 9 percent higher, and nonbuilding starts increased by 6 percent.

Total construction starts rose 10 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $889.7 billion, according to Dodge Construction Network.

“Construction starts have struggled over the last three months as concerns over rising prices, shortages of materials, and scarce labor led to declines in activity,” states Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Construction Network. “The increase in September, however, partially allays the fear that construction is headed for a free-fall and shows that owners and developers are still ready to move ahead with projects. Starts are likely to continue to trend in a positive but sawtooth fashion in the coming months until a more balanced recovery takes hold next year.”

Below is the full breakdown:

  • Nonbuilding construction starts rose 6 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $177.9 billion. Miscellaneous nonbuilding starts (pipelines, site work, etc.) and environmental public works (water, sewers, etc.) each gained 29 percent, while highway and bridge starts gained less than 1 percent. On the downside, utility/gas plant starts dropped 53 percent. Year-to-date, total nonbuilding starts were essentially unchanged through September. Environmental public works were 24 percent higher, while highway and bridge starts were 2 percent lower. Miscellaneous nonbuilding fell 14 percent and utility/gas plant starts fell 10 percent during the first nine months of the year.

For the 12 months ending in September 2021, total nonbuilding starts were 1 percent lower than the 12 months ending in September 2020. Environmental public works starts were 22 percent higher and highway and bridge starts were up 3 percent, while utility and gas plant starts were down 20 percent and miscellaneous nonbuilding starts were 16 percent lower on a 12-month rolling basis.

The largest nonbuilding projects to break ground in September were the $500 million Whale offshore oil field pipeline near Houston, the $485 million Chimney Hollow Reservoir Dam in Berthoud, Colo., and the $450 million repairs to docks at the United States Coast Guard Station in Fort Macon, N.C.

  • Nonresidential building starts rebounded in September, gaining 15 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $281.8 billion. Commercial buildings rose 13 percent as starts improved for the hotel, warehouse, and retail sectors. Office building starts fell. Institutional building starts rose 13 percent with all sectors but public buildings improving over the month. Manufacturing starts jumped 47 percent following a particularly weak August. In the first nine months of 2021, nonresidential building starts were 7 percent higher. Commercial starts increased 8 percent, manufacturing starts were 38 percent higher, while institutional starts were up just 2 percent.

For the 12 months ending in September 2021, nonresidential building starts were 1 percent lower than in the 12 months ending in September 2020. Commercial starts were down 1 percent, institutional starts rose 1 percent and manufacturing starts dropped 12 percent in the 12 months ending September 2021.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in September were the $670 million modernization program at Pittsburgh International Airport in Pittsburgh, the $658 million Irvine Campus Medical Complex in Irvine, Calif., and the $495 million Phillips 66 Sweeny Hub Fractionator in Sweeny, Texas.

  • Residential building starts rose 9 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $430 billion. Single family starts gained 9 percent in September, while multifamily starts increased by 24 percent. Through nine months, residential starts were 25 percent higher than in the same period one year ago. Single family starts gained 26 percent, and multifamily starts grew 20 percent.

For the 12 months ending in September 2021, total residential starts were 22 percent higher than the 12 months ending in September 2020. Single family starts gained 26 percent, and multifamily starts were up 10 percent on a 12-month sum basis.

The largest multifamily structures to break ground in September were the $300 million Islablue Apartments in Long Beach, N.Y., the $256 million Station Square Apartments (phase 2A) in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., and the $215 million 906 W. Randolph mixed-use project in Chicago.

  • Regionally, total construction starts improved in all five regions during September.

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