Contracting for new construction in January 2002 increased 2 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of $491.4 billion, according to F.W. Dodge, a division of The McGraw-Hill Cos.' Construction Information Group.

”The construction industry proved to be one of the healthier sectors of the ecomony in 2001, and the slight gain in January suggests that construction remains resilient,” said Robert A. Murray, vice president for economic affairs for Dodge. “Single family housing and school construction were the industry mainstays during 2001, offsetting weakness for commercial building, and the first month of 2002 shows a continuation of that trend.”

Nonresidential building rebounded after a weak December, growing 8 percent to $165.5 billion. School construction, the largest nonresidential category by dollar volume, rose 22 percent. Strong gains were also reported for healthcare facilities (21 percent), churches (37 percent), and transportation terminals (46 percent). Amusement-related projects were down 17 percent, and public buildings were down 18 percent.

The commercial side of nonresidential building was generally weaker in January: warehouses dropped 17 percent, offices were down 7 percent and hotels declined 2 percent. Stores and shopping centers ran counter to the downward trend -- up 18 percent.

Meanwhile, residential building continued at a brisk pace, up 2 percent to $229.8 billion. Both single and multifamily housing posted 2 percent growth.

”Warm winter weather in the northern states boosted levels of single family construction to what is likely an unsustainable pace, so some loss of momentum can be anticipated in the coming months,” Murray said.

By region, January showed this pattern for residential building:

  • Midwest – up 17 percent;

  • Northeast – up 16 percent;

  • South Atlantic – down 1 percent;

  • West – down 6 percent; and

  • South Central – down 7 percent.