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Economy in Brief

U.S. Construction Spending Jumps
by Tom Moeller  October 3, 2011

Volatility has been great in the monthly construction put-in-place figures, but there has been some trend improvement. During August, activity rose 1.4% after a little-revised 1.4% July decline. The monthly rise lifted activity 4.8% above the March low. A 0.2% August slip had been the Consensus expectation.

A rebound in public construction activity of 3.1% (-6.3% y/y) led the gain in monthly activity, after declines in nine of the ten prior months. Monthly strength was broad-based amongst public safety (-7.0% y/y), education (-4.5% y/y), highways & streets (-4.0% y/y), amusements & recreation (-18.6% y/y) and sewerage & waste disposal (-11.8% y/y). However, as these negative y/y changes indicate, federal, state & local spending budgets remain tight.

A modest 0.4% uptick in private sector spending followed. Residential building rose 0.7% as the value of single-family building (+10.5% y/y), multi-family building (13.3% y/y) and improvements (10.5% y/y) each rose modestly. Nonresidential building activity ticked up 0.2% led by a gain in power (25.9% y/y) and a rise in transportation (8.5% y/y). These gains were offset by commercial construction which fell m/m (+9.0% y/y) as did educational (+7.0% y/y).

The construction put-in-place figures are available in Haver's USECON database. The expectations figure is contained in Haver's AS1REPNA database.

Construction Put in Place (%) Aug Jul Jun Y/Y 2010 2009 2008
Total 1.4 -1.4 1.5 0.9 -11.3 -15.3 -7.5
 Private 0.4 -1.4 1.4 5.6 -15.2 -22.4 -12.2
  Residential 0.7 -3.2 -2.0 3.9 -2.9 -29.9 -29.0
  Nonresidential 0.2 0.3 4.6 7.0 -24.0 -16.0 10.5
 Public 3.1 -1.5 1.9 -6.3 -3.9 2.1 6.6
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