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Construction July Spending Flat from June, Up Year Over Year

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Commerce Dept. says private construction posted gains but public-sector total fell

Written by Tom Ichniowski for Engineering News-Record (View Original Article)

Construction spending in July was virtually even with the June level but rose 1.5% from the year-earlier total, as private-sector work increased and public-sector volume declined, the Commerce Dept. has reported.

Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau said on Sept. 1 that the value of construction put in place in July totaled $1.153 trillion, down $345 million, or less than 0.1%, compared with the previous month’s level.

Public-sector construction fell 3.1% month to month, to $278.2 billion, and 6.5% year over year. Private construction in July edged up 1% from June, to $875 billion, and increased 4.4% from July 2015’s mark.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said in a statement that the July numbers indicate construction demand remains strong, particularly in multifamily residential and private non-residential categories. He added, “But public investment in infrastructure and educational construction has been tepid.”

Total non-residential construction slipped 0.3% from June, to $701.4 billion, but was up 1.4% year over year, the Census Bureau said. Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement that a major reason for non-residential’s July downturn was the Census Bureau’s $21.5-billion upward revision to the June figure.

But he also said that there is a “lack of momentum in public spending” over the last year or so, because governors are dealing with other issues, such as increasing costs of Medicaid and underfunded pensions.

Eight of the 16 non-residential segments posted month-to-month increases in July, though mostly modest ones; six declined and two were basically flat.

Measured against year-earlier levels, seven non-residential sectors were up and nine recorded downturns.

Office construction notched the strongest non-residential increases, moving up 4% from June, to $71.7 billion, and surging 25.2% year over year.

On the down side, educational buildings dropped 6.3% for the month, to $82.9 billion. That also was a 4.9% falloff from the year-earlier level.

The power sector, the largest non-residential category, dipped 1.9% from June, to $97.8 billion, but that total was an 0.7% uptick from July 2015.

The third-largest segment, highways and streets, inched up 0.2% compared with June, to nearly $90 billion, but declined 1.7% year over year.

Total residential construction performed better than non-residential, rising 0.4% from June, to $451.7 billion, and gaining 1.7% from the year-earlier total. Spending on private multifamily housing projects jumped 19.8% from July 2015.

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