Construction starts declined 6% in August from July on the heels of three consecutive months of gains. Total construction starts for the first eight months of 2019 came to $535.3 billion, down 5% from the same period a year ago. From July to August, nonresidential construction decreased 3%, residential building slipped 1%, and non-building construction fell back 15%.
The drop in non-building construction in August was largely attributable to declines in starts in several categories, including environmental public works (-43%) and miscellaneous non-building (-32%). These decreases were, however, mitigated by gains in street and bridge projects (10%) and in the utility/gas plant category (9%).
The small decline in nonresidential building in August was primarily caused by a 66% drop in manufacturing starts following the July groundbreaking on a $1 billion manufacturing complex in Wisconsin. However, commercial construction starts grew 7% and institutional starts advanced 2% from July to August.
Residential building fell back slightly in August, with single-family housing construction declining 3%. These losses were only partially offset by an increase in multifamily housing starts of 3%. Compared to the same period of the previous year, single family construction was down and 6% multifamily was down 13% through the first eight months of 2019.
“The August decline was expected after July’s robust level of starts,” said Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “Furthermore, the year-to-date activity continued to suggest that this year’s levels are easing back from what was seen in 2018—essentially mirroring the slowdown in overall economic growth.”