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BURBANK, CA-California’s statewide construction activity slipped for the fourth consecutive month in September, totaling $5.7 billion for the month, down 5.7% from August and marking the fourth consecutive monthly decline in total statewide construction activity, according to the Construction Industry Research Board.

The nonprofit CIRBs figures, however, provide some hope for recovery in the commercial construction sector, the only segment of the states building industry that posted an increase during September. Permits issued in September for private nonresidential building totaled $1.2 billion, up 4.3% from August and up 2.7% from September 2002.

When combined with private residential building, however, the total of $4.4 billion for all private construction in September posted a decline of 0.3% from August. Public works activity (highway-heavy construction along with government-owned building) totaled $1.3 billion, down 20.3% from August and down 4.1% from September 2002.

Ben Bartolotto, director of CIRB, believes the heavy construction sector appears to be declining primarily because the roads and bridges portion of heavy construction continues on a downward spiral. He notes that the roads and bridges portion, by itself, is down 28.5% in the first nine months of 2003.

CIRB is forecasting total heavy construction will finish the year at $7.3 billion in 2003, down 19% from 2002. The forecast declines, explains Bartolotto, are mostly from anticipated reductions in road and bridge construction: from $3.7 billion in 2002, to $2.9 billion in 2003 and $2.7 billion in 2004.

On the other hand, CIRB is forecasting that public building construction will finish this year at $8.8 billion, up 19.1% from 2002. The public buildings sector is expected to receive a boost from state and local bond issues approved in 2002 for schools and state universities. In September, two school projects totaling $108.9 million were part of the public buildings total of $647.7 million. Still, this sector is down 17.4% from the previous month.

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