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Construction Spending Rises; Highways Decline


Construction spending during August 2017 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,218.3 billion, 0.5 percent (±1.3 percent) above the revised July estimate of $1,212.3 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The August figure is 2.5 percent (±1.8 percent) above the August 2016 estimate of $1,189.1 billion. During the first eight months of this year, construction spending amounted to $806.2 billion, 4.7 percent (±1.3 percent) above the $769.9 billion for the same period in 2016.

Public construction spending climbed 0.7 percent from the prior month following large decreases in June and July. But public spending skidded 5.1 percent from August 2016 to August 2017. 

Highway and street construction declined 1.3 percent for the month and 6.0 percent from a year earlier. Among other major public infrastructure categories, spending on transportation facilities such as transit and airport construction rose 0.8 percent for the month but slipped 0.4 percent year-over-year; spending on sewage and waste disposal plummeted 1.2 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively; and spending on water supply rose 2.6 percent in August but fell 6.4 percent year-over-year. 

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $954.8 billion, 0.4 percent (±1.2 percent) above the revised July estimate of $950.5 billion. 

  • Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $520.9 billion in August, 0.4 percent (±1.3 percent) above the revised July estimate of $518.6 billion. 
  • Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $433.9 billion in August, 0.5 percent (± 1.2 percent) above the revised July estimate of $432.0 billion.

"It is encouraging that spending rebounded in August for many types of residential, private nonresidential and public projects," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. "However, the August numbers also show that public and private nonresidential construction are continuing to slow or fall below last year's levels. Spending patterns are likely to be uneven through next year, as previously hot categories cool off but others revive."

Association officials said that efforts to reform the tax code provide a good opportunity to increase public and private funding for aging and overused public infrastructure. New investments will offset declining public sector demand and help boost overall economic activity, they added. "It is hard for American employers to be globally competitive when their workers are stuck in traffic and their products are being detoured around crumbling bridges," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer.