Total construction activity for 1996 advanced six percent to $324.5 billion according to the F.W. Dodge Division of The McGraw-Hill Companies. This follows a three percent gain in 1995, and represents the fifth straight year of moderate increase for the construction industry.

During 1996, single family housing proved to be the industry mainstay, picking up the slack from other sectors of the industry. For 1996 as a whole, residential construction advanced 13 percent to $144.6 billion, supported by the strongest volume of single family housing during the 1990s.

Nonresidential construction grew two percent to $115.5 billion in 1996, a slower rate of expansion than the 12 percent gain back in 1995. Leading the nonresidential market was hotel construction, which had a 39 percent increase, buoyed by several large casino projects as well as growth for the extended stay and economy segments of the lodging industry.

Over the past year, total construction in the South Central region led the nation with a nine percent increase, followed by an eight percent gain in the West. Trailing behind were the Midwest and South Atlantic, each with five percent improvement, and the Northeast, up three percent.