At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $783.6 billion, new construction starts in May advanced 15% from April, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. The increase follows a 12% decline in April and shows total construction activity reaching the highest level reported over the past eight months.
The lift in May came from substantial gains for nonbuilding construction, up 39%; and nonresidential building, up 18%; as both sectors benefitted from the start of several very large projects.
Nonbuilding construction, and specifically its public-works segment, was boosted by the start of three large natural-gas pipelines with a combined construction start cost of $4.6 billion, plus $1.4 billion related to the start of an environmental cleanup project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, a $1.4-billion rail transit project in Los Angeles, and a $1.1-billion rail transit project in the Boston area.
Nonresidential building was aided by the start of a $1.0-billion Facebook data center in Nebraska, the $764-million expansion of the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, and a $740-million airport terminal project at Salt Lake City International Airport.
Meanwhile, residential building in May held steady with its April pace. Through the first five months of 2018, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were $299.9 billion, down 3% from the same period a year ago. On a 12-month moving total basis, total construction starts for the 12 months ending May 2018 were up 1% from the amount reported for the 12 months ending May 2017.