Shipments this year of central air conditioners and heat pumps are on track to eclipse the 6,647,071 units shipped in 1999, according to the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI).

ARI reports that manufacturers shattered the single month shipment record for the third June in a row thanks to replacements, warmer-than-normal weather and a strong U.S. economy. However, combined U.S. factory shipments of 682,702 central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps for July were down 8% compared to shipments from the same month last year, according to ARI statistics. And August shipments were down 5%, to 501,379, although January through August shipments were still 6% ahead of last year's pace.

According to F.W. Dodge, a business unit of the McGraw-Hill Information Group, total construction on an adjusted basis held steady with the same period a year ago for the first eight months of 2000. Residential building and nonbuilding construction were each up 3% for that period compared to 1999, while nonresidential building was down 5%.

By region, the January-August period produced these gains and declines for total construction activity: the South Atlantic, up 4%; the Northeast, up 3%; the Midwest, down 4%; and the South Central, down 5%.

"The Dodge Index averaged 182 during the first half of 2000, so July and August depict a construction industry that is now moving at a mildly slower pace," said Robert Murray, vice president of economic affairs for Dodge. "It still qualifies as a healthy pace, and it should be able to continue for at least a while longer since August showed strength for housing. At the same time, there remains some uncertainty as to the extent nonresidential building will decelerate in the coming months."