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Residential housing construction continues modest recovery: McGraw-Hill

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Residential building grew modestly in November as the housing sector continued to recover from the drop-off of activity in late spring spurred by the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit. Residential construction increased 3% from October to an annualized rate of $122.8 billion, according to a monthly report by McGraw-Hill Construction. Single-family housing grew 4% during the month, "maintaining the very gradual upward movement that's been present since August," the report said. The November pace of single-family construction was still 13% below the average for the first quarter, when a more solid recovery seemed to be taking hold, according to the firm. Multifamily housing slipped 4% in November after two consecutive months of improved activity, while McGraw-Hill's index of new construction starts dropped to 80 from 88 in October. A 100 on the index corresponds to construction conditions witnessed in 2000. Robert Murray, vice president of economic affairs at McGraw-Hill Construction, said he expects construction patterns to remain volatile. "Since early 2009, the construction start statistics have shown an up-and-down pattern, essentially leveling off within a set range following an extended three-year decline," Murray said. "The pullback in November after October’s slight gain shows that this up-and-down pattern continues, and there’s yet to be evidence that renewed expansion is taking hold." During the first 11 months of the year, residential building is up 7% compared to the same period a year ago. Single-family building is up 7%, varying by region. Single-family building is up 11% in the Northeast, up 10% in the South Atlantic, up 8% in the Midwest, up 7% in the West and up 2% in the South Central U.S. Multifamily housing is up 8% for the first 11 months of the year compared to 2009. Write to Christine Ricciardi.

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