Stat-heads looking for some good news in this month's ElectroStats will have to pick among some wreckage for a few small pearls. The overall construction market registered a third consecutive month of gains and is up overall compared to early 2002. Total construction put-in-place during January 2003 rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of $877.9 billion, a 1.7 percent increase over December 2002 and 2.1 percent over January 2002, according to the Department of Commerce's Construction Put in Place report for January. Residential construction continued on its merry way and was responsible for much of the increase. With $452.6 billion worth of residential construction put in place, this segment's numbers were up 2.5 percent increase over December 2002 and up 12.2 percent over January 2002.

Now the bad news. After enjoying a 45.5 percent spike for the holidays in December, machine-orders dropped a depressing 24.9 percent in January to $149.7 billion, according to the American Machine Tool Distributors Association (AMTDA). Factories, office and hotel/motel construction is still the black hole of the construction market, as the construction put-in-place numbers for these market segments were all off 25 percent or worse in January compared to a year ago. Cheer up! Spring is almost here.