Most of us have been wondering what the COVID-19 pandemic would do to the construction market. Thanks to the latest from your friends at Dodge Data and Analytics, the coronavirus attack and resulting recession “wreaked havoc on U.S. building markets.”

According to Dodge Data & Analytics, commercial and multifamily starts were quite healthy during January and February but stalled as the pandemic hit the nation in March. For the first three months of 2020, U.S. multifamily and commercial building starts inched up 1 percent from the same period of 2019.

Office buildings, stores, hotels, warehouses, large-scale garages and multifamily housing comprise Dodge’s built commercial construction universe. Not included in this ranking are institutional building projects (such as educational facilities, hospitals, convention centers, casinos, transportation terminals), manufacturing buildings, single-family housing, public works, and electric utilities/gas plants.

The full force of the pandemic bore down on the U.S. economy in April and construction starts mirrored the drop in economic activity, which virtually shut down as local restrictions on construction took effect. Construction resumed in some areas in May, allowing starts to post a mild gain over the month. 

Advances continued in June. However, the damage to commercial and multifamily construction during the first half of the year was palpable. Nationwide starts plunged 22 percent below the first half of 2019, with only warehouse construction posting a minimal gain. Commercial and multifamily development starts in the top 20 metropolitan areas posted a similar drop of 22 percent through the first six months of 2020.

Los Angeles is the fourth largest commercial construction market in the U. S., but that’s not saying much when compared to New York City—L.A.’s is share bit more than one-fourth the size of that of the Big Apple, and that’s now

L.A.’s commercial and multifamily starts dropped 18 percent during the first six months of 2020 to $3.3 billion. Commercial starts fell 9 percent on a year-to-date basis, with strength coming from the office market, which posted a significant gain.

That gain, however, was not enough to offset declines elsewhere in the commercial space. The most significant commercial projects to break ground during the first half of 2020 were the $355 million Fig + Pico AC Marriott/Hilton hotel in Los Angeles and the $240 million first phase of the Iceberg Tower office project in Burbank.

Multifamily starts were down 26 percent over the same period. The biggest multifamily projects to start during the first half of the year were the $95 million 3535 W 8th St. mixed-use project in Los Angeles and the $93 million First Point residential building in Santa Ana, CA.