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Economy in Brief

U.S. Construction Spending Unchanged; Components Mixed
by Gerald D. Cohen  March 1, 2018

The value of construction put-in-place was unchanged during January (3.2% y/y) following upwardly revised increases of 1.2% and 0.8% in November and December (these were previously reported as 0.6% and 0.7% respectively). A 0.2% gain in activity had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey.

Private sector building activity declined 0.5% (+1.7% y/y) with growth in residential building activity of 0.3% (4.2% y/y) offset by a 1.5% drop (-1.1% y/y) in nonresidential construction. In the residential space, single-family housing activity rose 0.6% (8.8% y/y) however, multi-family construction fell 1.3% (-2.4% y/y). The value of improvements edged up 0.2% (0.1% y/y). The two largest nonresidential sectors--power and commercial construction--dropped 6.2% (-8.7% y/y) and 2.7% (+5.4% y/y) respectively. Meanwhile, factory construction, the third largest sector, rose 1.2%, though was down 9.7% in the year ending January 2018. Construction of office space, the fourth largest sector, declined 1.0% (-4.9% y/y).

The value of public sector building activity rose 1.8% (8.2% y/y). Highway and street, the largest component of public sector construction, jumped 4.3% (3.8% y/y); educational, the second largest, increased 2.1% (7.1% y/y). Public construction of residential housing--a very small sector--dropped 4.3%, but was still up 10.3% from a year ago.

The construction spending figures, some of which date back to 1946, are in Haver's USECON database and the expectations reading can be found in the AS1REPNA database.

Construction Put in Place (SA, %) Jan Dec Nov Jan Y/Y 2017 2016 2015
Total 0.0 0.8 1.2 3.2 3.8 6.5 10.7
  Private -0.5 0.6 1.5 1.7 5.8 9.2 12.9
    Residential 0.3 -0.5 1.2 4.2 10.6 10.5 14.2
    Nonresidential -1.5 1.8 1.7 -1.1 0.6 7.7 11.5
  Public 1.8 1.8 0.2 8.2 -2.5 -1.2 5.1
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