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Construction Spending Rebounds in February With Private, Public Gains

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING REBOUNDS IN FEBRUARY WITH PRIVATE, PUBLIC GAINS; INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR ADEQUATE FEDERAL INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING
Private Residential and Nonresidential Spending Show Monthly and Year-to-Year Growth in Major Categories; Federal Budget Cuts Undermine State and Local Investment and Jeopardize Industry’s Recovery

Construction spending rebounded in February with gains from depressed January levels in residential, private nonresidential and public investment, according to an analysis of new Census Bureau data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials cautioned that the rise in public investment was likely to be short-lived and urged policy makers in Washington to make infrastructure investment a priority.

“It is encouraging to see growth in both monthly and year-over-year totals in private residential and nonresidential construction spending,” said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. “There are increasing signs that 2013 will be a good year for a wide variety of project types.”

Construction put in place totaled $885 billion in February, up 1.2 percent from the downwardly revised January level. The February 2013 total was 7.9 percent higher than in February 2012. Private residential construction jumped 2.2 percent for the month and 20 percent year-over-year. Private nonresidential spending rose 0.4 percent for the month and 6.1 percent year-over-year. Public construction spending increased 0.9 percent for the month but slipped 1.5 percent over 12 months.

“There is little doubt that construction of new houses and apartments will continue to boom in the next several months, based on data covering recent housing starts and building permits, as well as reports of rising rents, occupancy rates and new-home sales in many markets,” Simonson commented. “On the nonresidential side, there should be a lot of activity involving pipelines, manufacturing, railroads and trucking, and warehouses.”

New single-family construction rose 4.3 percent from January’s level and 34 percent from a year ago. New multifamily construction fell 2.2 percent for the month but was 52 percent above the February 2012 mark.

The largest private nonresidential category, power construction—which includes oil and gas fields and pipelines as well as power plants, alternative energy and transmission lines—increased 0.7 percent for the month and 4.0 percent over 12 months. Manufacturing construction rose 0.3 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively. Private transportation construction slumped 2.4 percent in February but climbed 17 percent year-over-year. Warehouse construction soared 8.3 percent and 19 percent. New and remodeled private office construction rose 0.3 percent and 25 percent.

Association officials said federal infrastructure investment has been plunging even as several states have passed funding increases for projects. Federal investment in construction dropped 1.1 percent in February and 10 percent from a year ago, while state and local investment rose 1.1 percent for the month and was nearly level—down 0.5 percent—year-over-year. They urged the federal government to fund vitally needed investments in infrastructure projects.

“The nation has been underinvesting in infrastructure for years,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “With funding set through September, it is time for Washington to work on finding adequate funding in the next budget.”

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