Contracting for new construction in January 2002 increased 2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $491.4 billion, according to the Dodge division of The McGraw-Hill Companies' Construction Information Group.

January's data raised the Dodge Index to 148, up from a reading of 145 for the previous two months. For all of 2001, the Dodge Index averaged 147.

Nonresidential building in January grew 8% to $165.5 billion. School construction advanced 22%. The smaller institutional categories showed a mix of pluses and minuses in January. Strong gains were reported for healthcare facilities, up 21%; churches, up 37%; and transportation terminals, up 46%. Moving in the opposite direction were amusement-related projects, down 17%; and public buildings (courthouses and detention facilities), down 18%.

The commercial side of the nonresidential market was generally weaker in January. Warehouses dropped 17%, while offices and hotels showed respective declines of 7% and 2%. Stores and shopping centers, up 18%, ran counter to the downward trend for the other commercial building types. Manufacturing plant construction in January witnessed further weakening, sliding an additional 27%.

Residential building, at $229.8 billion, was up 2% in January, as both single and multifamily housing posted 2% growth. By region, January showed this pattern for residential building--the Midwest, up 17%; the Northeast, up 16%; the South Atlantic, down 1%; the West, down 6%; and the South Central, down 7%.

The public works categories in January were generally stronger, with water supply systems advancing 3%. Two public works categories that had a lackluster 2001 showed healthy growth in January, sewers and river/harbor development work, each jumped 35%.

On an unadjusted basis, total construction in January 2002 was reported at $35.3 billion, a decline of 3% from the same month a year ago. By sector, residential and non-building construction showed respective gains of 5% and 3%, while nonresidential building came in 15% below its January 2001 level. The regional pattern for total construction in January 2002 compared to the prior year was the following: the Midwest, up 17%; the South Atlantic, up 13%; the Northeast, down 8%; the South Central, down 11%; and the West, down 18%.