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Economy in Brief

U.S. Construction Spending Fell After Strengthened Gain Last Year 
by Tom Moeller July 1, 2005

The total value of construction put in place fell in May for the fourth month this year. The 0.9% decline followed a revised 1.1% drop in April. Consensus expectations had been for a 0.5% increase.

The 2004 increase in total construction spending was revised up to 11.1% from 8.9% as a result of a strengthened gain in residential building to 18.5% from 13.9%.

Since then private residential building activity has fallen sharply, down 4.9% during the last three months. The value of new single family building, however, has continued to rise by 0.5% (7.6% y/y) in May. Building on new multi-family units fell 0.9% (15.0% y/y).

Nonresidential building slipped 1.6% (+5.0% y/y) due to a 1.2% (+2.4% y/y) decline in office building.

Public construction spending rose 1.7% but the steam came out of spending on highways & streets, nearly one third of the value of public construction spending, as y/y growth slowed to 5.4% from the high of 19.7% in February.

These more detailed categories represent the Census Bureau’s reclassification of construction activity into end-use groups. Finer detail is available for many of the categories; for instance, commercial construction is shown for Automotive sales and parking facilities, drugstores, building supply stores, and both commercial warehouses and mini-storage facilities. Note that start dates vary for some seasonally adjusted line items in 2000 and 2002 and that constant-dollar data are no longer computed.

Construction Put-in-place May April Y/Y 2004 2003 2002
Total -0.9% -1.1% 8.2% 11.1% 5.4% 1.0%
Private -1.6% -1.5% 7.0% 13.8% 6.3% -0.4%
  Residential -1.7% -2.2% 7.8% 18.5% 12.9% 8.5%
  Nonresidential -1.6% 0.6% 5.0% 3.9% -5.4% -13.0%
Public 1.7% 0.2% 7.1% 2.5% 2.7% 5.7%
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