A new year brings new hope for the U.S. construction industry. While overall U.S. construction starts for next year will remain flat, single-family housing is predicted to improve 10 percent in dollars next year (7 percent in the number of units), according to the recently releasedMcGraw-Hill Construction’s 2012 Dodge Construction Outlook. Multifamily housing will continue its steady rise with an 18 percent jump in dollars and 17 percent in units.

Commercial building is expected to increase 8 percent, the report says, with the largest growth in warehouses and hotels. The institutional building market - areas such as school construction and new health-care facilities, which had been bright spots in the industry in previous years - will slip another 2 percent in 2012, after falling 15 percent this year, primarily due to the painful fiscal environment found in states and local municipalities.

Add to this the fact that new home sales rose for the second month in a row (5.7 percent in September), we can see a teeny tiny ray of sunshine creep into the dismal construction landscape of the past few years.