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Economy in Brief

U.S. Construction Spending Down in January, Mainly in Utility Plants
by Carol Stone  March 1, 2013

Construction put-in-place fell 2.1% in January (+7.1% y/y) after December's 1.1% increase. December was revised slightly from a 0.9% increase reported a month ago, but November received a boost from new data on electric power plant construction, which produced a 1.9% rise in total construction put-in-place, compared to just +0.1% shown in last month's report. Apparently, the November jump in power plant construction was then reflected in the January drop. In dollar terms, total construction fell $19.3 billion (SAAR) in January, including a $15.0 billion decrease in new private power construction. The January decline in the total contrasted to consensus expectations of a 0.4% increase, which would have been based in the old data for the previous months.

Private construction overall was down 2.6% in January (+12.2% y/y) after a 2.1% increase in December, marginally revised from 2.0% reported before. November, including that power plant category, was revised to +2.7% from +0.2%. The total for the nonresidential segment fell 5.1% in January (+4.0% y/y), following a 2.4% increase in December and 5.5% in November, the latter revised from -0.3%. Private residential construction was virtually unchanged in January (up 22.0% from a year ago), with December revised down to 1.7% from 2.2% and November revised modestly from +0.6% to -0.1%. Notably, the flat result in Janaury masked a shift in the mix, with new housing up 3.3%, mostly in single-family, and improvements falling 4.3%.

Public construction continued in a modestly declining trend, falling 1.0% in January (-3.0% y/y) with December also down 1.0%, revised from -1.4% reported last month; November was unchanged and also only marginally revised from -0.1% in the previous report. State and local construction, by far the larger segment, was down 1.0%, and federal government construction was off 1.3%.

The construction spending figures are in Haver's USECON database and the expectations figure is contained in the AS1REPNA database.

Construction Put in Place (%) Jan Dec Nov Y/Y 2012 2011 2010
Total -2.1 1.1 1.9 7.1 9.4 -3.1 -11.2
Private -2.6 2.1 2.7 12.2 16.5 -1.1 -15.2
Residential -0.0 1.7 -0.1 22.0 15.7 -1.0 -2.9
Nonresidential -5.1 2.4 5.5 7.6 17.2 -1.3 -24.0
Public -1.0 -1.0 0.0 -3.0 -3.0 -6.4 -3.6
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