Private nonresidential construction had a small gain in July, says Kenneth D. Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). The Census Bureau shows that the overall value of construction put in place edged up .2% in July from an upwardly revised June total to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $880 billion, just short of the all-time high of $883 billion set last January.

Construction of hospitals, medical buildings, and special health-care facilities rose .6% for the month. Two other health-related construction categories also did well in July: drug stores were up 10%, and chemical plants, which include pharmaceuticals, gained 1%.

Automotive sales and service/parts construction rose 5% and 33%, respectively, for the month but on a year-to-date basis, they’re down by 15% and 23% compared to the first seven months of 2002. Electric power construction rose 3% in July but is off 7% year-to-date.