Construction Spending Holds Steady


Construction spending during May 2017 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,230.1 billion, nearly the same as (±2.5 percent) the revised April estimate of $1,230.4 billion. The May figure is 4.5 percent (±2.5 percent) above the May 2016 estimate of $1,177.0 billion.

During the first five months of this year, construction spending amounted to $469.2 billion, 6.1 percent (±1.3 percent) above the $442.4 billion for the same period in 2016.

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $943.2 billion, 0.6 percent (±0.7 percent) below the revised April estimate of $949.3 billion.

  • Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $509.6 billion in May, 0.6 percent (±1.3 percent) below the revised April estimate of $512.7 billion.
  • Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $433.6 billion in May, 0.7 percent (± 0.7 percent) below the revised April estimate of $436.7 billion.

"Spending on most types of private construction has remained relatively flat from month to month so far in 2017 but at a higher level than in the same period of 2016," said Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. "By contrast, public investment in infrastructure has generally declined from last year's levels despite a pickup from April to May. At this point in the year, it looks as if private demand for structures remains healthy, but gridlock in Congress and in several state governments will depress public infrastructure spending."

Simonson added that the year-to-date increase of 6.1 percent for January through May 2017, compared with the same months of 2016, shows overall demand for construction remains positive but that the recent flattening of investment coincides with more frequent reports that contractors and home builders are stretching out completion times because they cannot find enough qualified workers.

Public construction spending grew 2.1 percent from the prior month but declined by 3.5 percent for the first five months of 2017 combined. The biggest public segment – highway and street construction – dipped 0.9 percent for the month and 1.3 percent year-to-date.

Among other major public infrastructure categories, spending on transportation facilities such as transit and airport construction inched down 0.2 percent year-to-date; spending on sewage and waste disposal plummeted 21.5 percent; and spending on water supply fell 11.0 percent.

Association officials urged Washington officials to act on new measures to support workforce development – such as passing new legislation to support career and technical education – and to find a way to pay for needed investments in aging public infrastructure. "Washington officials must enact measures to support career and technical education and to get our aging roads, bridges and water systems back to a state of good repair," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer.