The value of new construction starts through the first two months of 2009 totaled just $52.7 billion, or 45% less than the opening two months of last year, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. However, the year-to-year declines are skewed by comparisons to five megaprojects started in the first two months of last year, which totaled over $12 billion. “If these five unusually large projects are excluded from the January-February 2008 statistics, the nonresidential building market for the first two months of 2009 would be down 35% [instead of 51%], while total construction would be down 37%,” says MHC’s chief economist Robert Murray. He expects the “erosion in public works” to be reversed later this spring as the federal stimulus bill kicks in. But tight lending will continue to depress building markets.