Contracting for new construction edged up 1% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $408.6 billion, according to the F.W. Dodge Division of the McGraw-Hill Companies. Greater contracting was reported for nonresidential building and nonbuilding construction (public works and utilities), offsetting continued slippage for housing.

In better news, nonresidential building climbed 11%. Office construction advanced 6%, while hotel construction jumped a whopping 65%. Stores and warehouses in September showed respective gains of 7% and 21%, but manufacturing plant construction fell 25% from its already lackluster August results.

The institutional categories generally strengthened in September, including a 12% increase for school construction. The start of two large courthouses in Delaware and Florida helped the public building category rise 35%, while amusement-related projects and churches rose 12% and 4%, respectively. On the down side, health care construction dipped by 12%.

Elsewhere, the electric utility construction figures were up 16%.

“With a growing number of states enacting plans to deregulate the electric utility industry, much of the uncertainty involving this sector has been alleviated, and this has contributed to the doubling of the amount of power plant construction in 1999 as compared to last year,” observed Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for F.W. Dodge.

All five regions of the United States have experienced construction growth from January through September, with the Northeast leading the pack with a 10% hike. Other regions have enjoyed slightly lesser results, finishing up with a 4% increase in the West.