New construction starts in July slipped 4% from a very strong June, according to the McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge. Both nonresidential building and housing were down slightly, while a more substantial decline was reported for nonbuilding construction, which includes public works and electric utilities. Through the first seven months of 2003, total construction activity was 1% below the same period a year ago.

“The construction industry got off to a sluggish start in 2003, and more recently it has picked up the pace,” says Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge. “The modest retreat in July was expected, since June was helped by projects that had been previously deferred.”