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February Construction Starts Fall Again

Total construction starts fell 2 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $797.3 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics Nonresidential building starts declined, leading to a pullback in overall activity. The Dodge Index fell 2 percent in February, to 169 (2000=100) from January’s 171.

“With spring just around the corner, hope is building for a strong economic recovery fueled by the growing number of vaccinated Americans,“ says Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “But the construction sector will be hard-pressed to take advantage of this resurgence as rapidly escalating materials prices and a supply overhang across many building sectors weighs on starts through the first half of the year.”

Nonresidential Building 

Nonresidential building starts fell 7 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $208.1 billion. Institutional starts dropped 8 percent during the month despite a strong pickup in health care. Warehouse starts fell back during the month following a robust January, offsetting gains in office and hotel starts, and dragging down the overall commercial sector by 8 percent.

For the 12 months ending February 2021, nonresidential building starts dropped 28 percent compared to the 12 months ending February 2020. Commercial starts declined 30 percent, institutional starts were down 19 percent, and manufacturing starts slid 58 percent in the 12 months ending February 2021.

The largest nonresidential building projects to break ground in February were Ohio State University’s $1.2 billion Wexner Inpatient Hospital Tower in Columbus, Ohio; ApiJect Systems’ $785 million Gigafactory in Durham, North Carolina; and Sterling EdgeCore’s $450 million data center in Sterling, Virginia.