New construction starts for September totaled $564.5 billion, down from August.

NEW YORK - New construction starts for September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $564.5 billion, down 3 percent from August, according to McGraw-Hill Construction.

Residential building remained steady with the previous month, but nonresidential building and public works showed reduced activity. During the first nine months of 2004, total construction on an unadjusted basis was reported at $444.7 billion, up 10 percent from the same period a year ago.

"While August and September have seen a slower pace, new construction starts are still on track to post the strongest annual gain in five years," said Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill. "Single-family housing continues to be the main source of expansion for the construction industry, and this year an improving trend for commercial building has taken hold. In addition, there have been a few unexpected gains in 2004, reported by several institutional structure types and environmental public works."

Residential building in September was $325 billion, essentially unchanged from August. Single-family housing was down 3 percent, while multifamily housing jumped 14 percent. The September multifamily total was aided by the start of several large projects in Honolulu, Wanaque, N.J.; Las Vegas, Hallandale, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.

Nonresidential building was down 4 percent for the month at $148.5 billion. Health care facilities fell 26 percent, while office construction dropped 21 percent from an August that included the start of a new $400 million New York Times headquarters in midtown Manhattan.

Nonbuilding construction fell 8 percent in September to $91 billion. Highway and bridge construction was down, as were contracting projects for water-supply systems and sewers. River and harbor development was up 6 percent, while mass transit and site development was up 23 percent.