NEW YORK — The value of new contracts signed for public works projects plunged in February, causing a 5% decline from January in the projected annual rate of total construction contracting, a construction-industry research company said Wednesday.
The F. W. Dodge division of McGraw-Hill Information Systems said new construction contracts signed in February amounted to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $204.14 billion. That was down 5% from January's annual rate of $215.13 billion, F. W. Dodge said in its monthly report on the construction industry.
The Dodge report projects an annual rate of construction contracting based on total value of contracts signed during a given month.
Contracting for public works and utilities construction in February dipped 24% to an annual rate of $36.21 billion from an annual rate of $47.76 billion in January, Dodge said. Contracting for residential construction fell 3% to an annual rate of $94.19 billion from $96.76 billion in January, it said.
Contracting for non-residential construction, including commercial and industrial projects, rose 4% in February to an annual rate of $73.75 billion from January's rate of $70.61 billion, Dodge said.
The Dodge index, which compares the current rate of total construction contract value with that of 1977 as a base equaling 100, fell to 145 in February from 153 in January.
George A. Christie, vice president and chief economist for Dodge, said February's decline "was more the result of erratic funding of publicly financed construction than it was a reaction to economic conditions."
On the other hand, he said that "commercial building, the corner of the construction market that is most sensitive to business activity, was having one of its best months in February."
Christie said the gain in non-residential contracting was largely the result of a rebound in contracting for new offices and other commercial buildings. "Industrial construction has still shown no sign of recovering from the effects of last year's economic slowdown," he said.
Dodge no longer gives monthly totals of construction contracting activity, because it views the seasonally adjusted annual rate as a more accurate measure of construction trends, Christie said.