New construction starts in December fell 10% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $708.9 billion, continuing to retreat after November’s 7% slide, according to a report from Dodge Data & Analytics out Thursday
The December downturn reflected diminished activity for each of the three main construction sectors. Nonresidential building dropped 14%, as its commercial building segment lost momentum following its heightened November amount. Residential building pulled back 8%, due to reduced activity in December for both single family and multifamily housing. Nonbuilding construction decreased 9%, with a steep plunge by the electric utility/gas plant category that outweighed a December rebound for public works.
For 2018 as a whole, total construction starts increased a slight 0.3% to $789.0 billion. This came after 7% gains in both 2016 and 2017, as well as 11% to 14% gains from 2012 through 2015.
Single family housing in 2018 grew 4%, a smaller increase than the 9% pickup in 2017. By geography, single family housing in 2018 showed this pattern for the five major regions – the West, up 8%; the South Atlantic, up 5%; the South Central, up 4%; the Midwest, up 1%; and the Northeast, down 1%.