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Nonresidential Construction Spending Slips in November; Ominous Indications in Census Bureau Report

12 of the 16 nonresidential subsectors experienced spending decreases


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WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 4- Nonresidential construction spending dipped by 0.8 percent in November, totaling $688.1 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis, according to analysis of  U.S. Census Bureau data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). This represents the worst monthly performance since April 2015. Moreover, October's spending estimate was revised downward from $701.8 billion to $693.7 billion and September's estimate was revised downward from $695 billion to $691.5 billion. 
 
Overall, 12 of the 16 nonresidential subsectors experienced spending decreases in November as spending declined in both the private (-0.7%) and public sectors (-1%).
 
"While it is rarely a good idea to place too much emphasis on one month of data, there are some ominous indications in today's report," said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. "After experiencing significant spending momentum early last year, that momentum has softened considerably in recent months. Recent surveys of construction executives have been a bit more downbeat of late. 
 
"Economic news generally has not been very positive with the glaring exception of the U.S. labor market, often viewed as a lagging economic indicator. Profit margins at many companies are being squeezed by rising wage and healthcare costs, and the losses experienced by energy suppliers have been well chronicled. Softer global economic growth and a stronger U.S. dollar are also making their mark. The world suddenly feels considerably riskier. That frequently translates into diminished capital availability, which ultimately translates into weaker construction spending.
 
"ABC has noted previously that construction backlog is not expanding as it had earlier in the cycle," continued Basu. "The most recent data suggest that while 2016 may be a year of nonresidential construction spending growth, it may not provide the degree of momentum that characterized much of 2015. It is worth noting that construction related to the nation's manufacturing sector slipped meaningfully in November, likely a reflection of falling exports and stiffer competition from foreign producers. Even healthcare-related construction spending slipped, but there is reason to believe that it will be an important driver of overall construction spending growth this year."
 
Only four of 16 nonresidential construction sectors experienced spending increases in November on a monthly basis:
  • Spending in the communication category increased by 4.4 percent for the month and is up 27.8 percent on a yearly basis.
  • Spending in the educational category rose 3.9 percent month-over-month and has expanded 13.8 percent year-over-year.
  • Office-related spending increased 1.6 percent from October 2015 and 20.6 percent from November 2014.
  • Spending in the transportation category inched up 0.2 percent for the month and is up 3.1 percent for the year. 
Spending in 12 of the nonresidential construction subsectors fell in November on a monthly basis:
  • Spending in the public safety category fell 8.1 percent on a monthly basis and 5.2 percent on a yearly basis.
  • Water supply-related spending fell 7.2 percent month-over month and 5.2 percent year-over-year.
  • Spending in the conservation and development category dipped 4.9 percent for the month, but rose 3.2 percent compared to November 2014.
  • Sewage and waste disposal-related spending fell 4.8 percent from October 2015 and 1.8 percent from November 2014. 
  • Manufacturing-related spending dipped 4.2 percent month-over-month, but is up 28.8 percent year-over-year. 
  • Spending in the religious category fell 3.8 percent for the month, but is up 3.4 percent compared to the same time last year. 
  • Amusement and recreation-related spending shed 2.1 percent on a monthly basis, but has gained 16.2 percent on a yearly basis.
  • Highway and street-related spending dipped 1.4 percent for the month, but is up5.5 percent from November 2014. 
  • Spending in the lodging category fell 1.1 percent month-over-month, but is 28.6 percent higher than at the same time last year. 
  • Commercial-related spending dipped 1.1 percent on a monthly basis, but has expanded 0.4 percent on a yearly basis. 
  • Spending in the power category declined 1.1 percent for the month, but is up 5.2 percent for year-over-year. 
  • Health care related spending ticked down 0.1 percent from October 2015, but has expanded 5 percent since November 2014.
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Additional ABC Economic Analysis
ABC Economic Reports
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national construction industry trade association representing nearly 21,000 chapter members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically, profitably and for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at abc.org.
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