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Total Construction Falls Sharply in November

Total construction starts fell 14 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $867.8 billion, according to Dodge Construction Network. Nonbuilding and nonresidential building starts bore the brunt of the decline, falling 30 percent and 21 percent respectively after seeing sharp increases in October as three large projects broke ground. Without October’s large projects, total construction starts in November would have increased by 5 percent.

“Large projects aside, the underlying trend continues to point to a modest recovery in construction starts,” says Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Construction Network. “However, even as projects continue to move forward, the short-term outlook remains cloudy due to continued escalation in material prices and labor shortages. While construction should see some reprieve in 2022, these challenges will restrain the industry’s ability to fully capitalize on both the large number of projects in planning and funding resulting from the infrastructure package. The result will be moderate growth in construction starts over the near-term.”

Regionally, total construction starts improved in the Northeast and Midwest regions but fell in the South Atlantic, South Central, and West regions

Nonresidential construction

Nonresidential building starts lost 21 percent in November, falling to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $281.1 billion. This decline is due to the start of two large manufacturing projects beginning in the previous month. Without these two projects in the data, nonresidential building projects would have increased 5 percent in November. In November, commercial building starts fell 10 percent, with only parking structures and warehouses showing small gains. Manufacturing fell by a sharp 96 percent. Institutional starts, by contrast, gained 28 percent, with all categories rising. In the first 11 months of 2021, nonresidential building starts were 11 percent higher. Commercial starts increased 7 percent, manufacturing starts were 86 percent higher, and institutional starts were up 5 percent.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in November were the $2.6 billion first phase of the Terminal 1 replacement at San Diego International Airport in San Diego, the $840 million Robley Rex VA Medical Center Campus in Louisville, Kentucky, and the $419 million expansion of the Wisconsin Convention Center in Milwaukee.