Construction industry sees $573 billion in August.

NEW YORK - Construction starts for August settled back 4 percent from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $573.3 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction.

McGraw-Hill is reporting that the retreat for total construction was due to a slower pace for nonresidential building after a very strong July in combination with a slight loss of momentum for residential building and "non-building" construction such as public works and utilities. For the first eight months of 2004, total construction on an adjusted basis came to $394.3 billion, up 10 percent from the same period a year ago.

Nonresidential building in August fell 7 percent to an annual rate of $157.7 billion. Weaker activity was registered by the major commercial categories. Stores were down 4 percent, warehouses down by 7 percent, while offices and hotels were down 14 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

Institutional structure types had a mixed August. Reduced contracting was registered by schools, which were down 4 percent. Amusement-related projects were down 11 percent, transportation down by 13 percent and public buildings down 17 percent. On the plus side, church construction increased 12 percent, while health care facilities saw a surge of 46 percent, due in part to large hospital projects in Colorado, Utah, Florida, Virginia and California.

Residential building came in at $315.5 billion in August, down by 2 percent. Single-family housing was down 3 percent from July, although the level remains very high, up 6 percent from what was reported back in January. Multifamily housing in August advanced 3 percent, helped by the demand for condominiums. Year-to-date figures for multifamily housing show the dollar volume of new construction up 12 percent.