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Construction Spending Down Slightly in October


The U.S. Census Bureau reported that construction spending during October 2018 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,308.8 billion, 0.1 percent (±1.5 percent) below the revised September estimate of $1,310.8 billion. The October figure is 4.9 percent (±1.6 percent) above the October 2017 estimate of $1,247.5 billion. 

During the first 10 months of this year, construction spending amounted to $1,096.4 billion, 5.1 percent (±1.2percent) above the $1,043.6 billion for the same period in 2017.

In October, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $310.2 billion, 0.8 percent (±2.6 percent) above the revised September estimate of $307.8 billion. Educational construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $76.9 billion, 2.6 percent (±2.3 percent) above the revised September estimate of $75.0 billion. 

Highway construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $94.6 billion, 0.1 percent (±6.9 percent) below the revised September estimate of $94.6 billion.

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $998.7 billion, 0.4 percent (±0.8 percent) below the revised September estimate of $1,003.0 billion. 

  • Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $539.0 billion in October, 0.5 percent (±1.3 percent) below the revised September estimate of $541.7 billion. 
  • Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $459.7 billion in October, 0.3 percent (±0.8 percent) below the revised September estimate of $461.3 billion.

"Although most segments of construction continue to post year-over-year spending gains, investment in vitally needed infrastructure has stalled or shrunk in the past four months," said Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. "If infrastructure contractors start losing employees to more-active construction segments, it may be hard to get infrastructure projects done on time once funding resumes."  

The economist noted that public spending was boosted by large increases in educational spending and other public building segments, while all public infrastructure categories had declined from recent highs. Seasonally adjusted spending on highway and street construction peaked in August and has dropped 2.1 percent in the past two months, he said. Public investment in air, rail and water transportation facilities fell 1.2 percent between August and October. Outlays for sewage and waste disposal and water supply systems topped out in June and have decreased 2.2 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively, since then. Public spending on conservation and development, such as levees and dams, slumped 14.6 percent from August to October.

Association officials said that now is the ideal time to invest in repairing, modernizing and expanding infrastructure. Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer, called on federal officials to act quickly to enact legislation that would increase funding and speed the approval process to improve highways and other modes of transportation, enhance water safety and supply, and strengthen critical levees and dams.

"Infrastructure is vital to all Americans and is a subject both parties should be able to agree on funding and improving," Sandherr said. "The incoming Congress has an opportunity to create a bipartisan infrastructure bill that will benefit all regions and all parts of the economy."