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August construction rises 2 percent

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $490.2 billion, new construction starts in August advanced 2 percent relative to July, according to a report from McGraw Hill Construction.

Residential building stayed on the upward track, and non-building construction (public works and electric utilities) rebounded after its loss of momentum in July. At the same time, non-residential building retreated from its improved July amount, continuing the up-and-down pattern that’s been present during 2013.

For the first eight months of 2013, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis came in at $329.4 billion, up 1 percent from the same period a year ago.

“On balance, the construction industry is showing modest growth in 2013, although by major sector there’s been divergent behavior,” McGraw Hill Construction vice president of economic affairs Robert A. Murray said in a statement. “Housing continues to lead the way, with consistent gains reported for both single- and multifamily housing. Public works has edged up slightly from last year, helped by the start of several very large projects and withstanding for now the negative impact of the sequester. New electric utility starts have fallen substantially from last year’s record volume.

“However, it’s been more problematic to discern this year’s trend for nonresidential building — the commercial categories are hesitantly picking up the pace, but the institutional categories are still languishing. A more solid expansion for total construction requires a greater contribution from nonresidential building, which has yet to occur.”

Residential building increased 4 percent in August, including gains of 12 percent and 2 percent in the multi- and single-family housing categories.

The commercial categories grew a combined 3 percent.

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