New construction was down 1% in April

Construction starts for public works fell 19 percent in April.
Construction starts for public works fell 19 percent in April.
The value of new construction starts in April fell 1 percent to an adjusted annual rate of $386.6 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

In another discouraging sign for construction equipment companies, a sharp 19 percent decline in public works projects pushed down the value of new construction starts, even as residential building picked up 9 percent from March.

Nonbuilding construction in April dropped to $114.7 billion, after a 28 percent increase in March - largely due to the start of work on two natural gas pipelines valued at a combined $2.6 billion and a $1.6 billion rail project.

Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction, said the construction industry could be establishing a bottom after a long recession.

"The pattern of construction starts over the past two months suggests a transition from extended declines to more of an up-and-down pattern, which generally takes place when a bottom gets established," Murray said.

Murray said the impact from the stimulus bill on public works construction is just beginning to emerge, with this sector expected to see more strength in the latter part of the year.