Non-residential construction starts declined 26.1 percent from August to September in the U.S., according to a new report (see attachment) from construction data provider CMD. September’s new construction total, $15.0 billion, was 41 percent lower than September 2014. The retreat in construction starts reflects the downward trend – June $31.6 billion, July $26.3 billion, August $19.8 billion – in construction activity seen in previous months. In fact, the last time monthly starts were this weak was in February 2012 ($13.9 billion), which was partly due to severe winter weather.
Among the three major sub-categories of non-residential construction, commercial (20 percent decline) and institutional (17 percent decline) activity retreated, but by far the most dramatic change from August to September occurred in heavy engineering (59 percent decline). The two biggest components of heavy engineering are road/highway and water/sewage work, with both essentially going into hibernation, 89 percent and 82 percent declines, respectively.
On a positive note, employment rates in the construction field continued to remain among some of the best in all major industry sub-sectors, with only 5.5 percent of workers unemployed, compared to 7.0 percent this time last year.