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Construction Spending, Employment Rise; Highways Down


The U.S. Census Bureau announced that construction spending during April 2018 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,310.4 billion, 1.8 percent (±1.0 percent) above the revised March estimate of $1,286.8 billion.

The April figure is 7.6 percent (±1.5 percent) above the April 2017 estimate of $1,217.7 billion. During the first four months of this year, construction spending amounted to $387.0 billion, 6.6 percent (±1.2 percent) above the $363.1 billion for the same period in 2017.

In April, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $296.1 billion, 1.3 percent (±2.0 percent) below the revised March estimate of $300.1 billion. Educational construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $74.2 billion, nearly the same as (±2.3 percent) the revised March estimate of $74.2 billion.

Highway construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $88.0 billion, 1.0 percent (±6.3 percent) below the revised March estimate of $88.8 billion.

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,014.3 billion, 2.8 percent (±0.8 percent) above the revised March estimate of $986.6 billion.

  • Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $556.3 billion in April, 4.5 percent (±1.3 percent) above the revised March estimate of $532.4 billion.
  • Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $458.0 billion in April, 0.8 percent (±0.8 percent) above the revised March estimate of $454.2 billion.

“The April jump reversed the March drop, but the bigger picture here is that this is the fifth 1 percent-plus increase in the past six months,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics. “The strength is across the board, public and private, residential and commercial, with the only softer spot being the state and local government sector, where huge volatility is normal.”

The U.S. construction industry also added 25,000 net new jobs in May, according to Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This follows a 21,000 net job gain in April (revised upward from 17,000). The industry has gained 286,000 jobs on a year-over-year basis, the largest such increase since April 2016.

“Despite all the noise regarding tariffs, trade wars, Italy, Spain and a myriad of other issues, the U.S. economy continues to move forward with conviction,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Today’s employment report is rendered all the more impressive given the difficulty so many firms, including construction firms, report filling available jobs. The ongoing addition of jobs in nonresidential construction is both an expression of confidence as well as evidence of an industry that continues to benefit from economic growth."

"Construction workers and their employers are clearly benefitting from steps Congress and the administration are taking to boost economic demand,” added Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “Construction pay, employment and demand have all increased as business conditions have improved.”