At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $512.9 billion, new construction starts in July slipped 4% from a very strong June, according to McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. Both nonresidential building and housing were down slightly, while a more substantial decline was reported for nonbuilding construction (public words and electric utilities). Through the first seven months of 2003, total construction activity was 1% below the same period a year ago.
In July, nonresidential building retreated 1% to 154.9 billion, reflecting a mix of pluses and minuses among the various structure types. On the plus side, school construction (the largest nonresidential category by dollar volume) jumped 12%. Pushing the educational category upward were the start of several large senior high schools in Texas, California, and Illinois, plus a $100 million museum expansion in Washington, DC. According to Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge, “While school construction has eased back from its record high in 2001, the volume contrinues to be generally strong, withstanding for the moment, any dampening arising from tight state fiscal conditions.”