Builders shrugged off a rather lackluster September, choosing to focus instead on regaining ground in the fourth quarter. Regardless of the month-over-month decline from August in nearly every industry sector, builders remain optimistic — buoyed by indicators of future demand, job growth and cumulative year-over-year gains.

The forecast for the quarter ahead shows moderate but positive growth.

Total new construction starts slipped 5 percent in September, according to Dodge Data & Analytics, with decreased activity in both nonresidential building and housing. Overall, the value of new nonresidential construction slid 4 percent compared to August's figures.

Institutional construction fell 13 percent, while education tumbled 20 percent. Office construction was one of the few bright spots in the month, increasing by 20 percent. On the residential side, total value of new starts dropped 11 percent month-over-month.

Single-family housing declined 3 percent, but multifamily "plunged" by 30 percent. However, Dodge's analysts noted the volatility in the multifamily sector was largely due to a slowdown in activity in New York City, whose tax abatement program "expired in June and led to a surge of multifamily construction starts prior to its expiration."

The National Association of Home Builders also announced an 11.5 percent drop in sales of new single-family homes during September, based on data from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Contrary to Dodge, however, the NAHB cites data released from HUD and the U.S. Commerce Department that multihousing starts rose 18.3 percent in September, and single-family housing barely crept up by 0.3 percent. The seeming contradiction in these figures may be due to differences in accounting, as Dodge tracks total value of construction while HUD tracks number of units.

More mixed signals came from the American Institute of Architects, which reported its Architecture Billings Index (ABI) bounced back nearly 5 points in September after a slight dip into negative territory in August. Yet activity was down somewhat in each of the sectors tracked by the ABI. Nearly all sectors reported positive activity, though except multifamily residential, which has hovered below the 50-point mark on the ABI since February.

Despite the numbers, industry experts chose to see the glass as half-full, noting a positive, upward trend overall. Dodge reports total construction is up 5 percent over the same nine-month period as last year. In addition, the Dodge Momentum Index for September jumped nearly 6 points, indicating future growth in nonresidential building activity.

NAHB, likewise, said new home sales to date were up 17.6 percent over the same period last year. Last week, NAHB released its Fall Construction Forecast, stating, "Steady employment and economic growth, pent-up demand, affordable home prices and attractive mortgage rates will keep the housing market on a gradual upward trend in 2016."

Experts also sounded a note of caution.

"Areas of concern are shifting to supply issues for the industry, including volatility in building materials costs, a lack of a deep enough talent pool to keep up with demand, as well as a lack of contractors to execute design work," said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker.

NAHB Chairman Tom Woods concurred: "Our members continue to tell us there are still pockets of softness in some markets across the nation, and that they face challenges regarding the availability of lots and labor."

With signs that growth in the global economy is slowing, experts also worry the recovery in the U.S. could once again stall, resulting in lower employment and wages. October's numbers, when available, should reveal whether September's dip was temporary or the first indication of a downward trend.