National construction spending rises

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77292880New construction totaled $885 billion nationally in February, up 1.2 percent from the  revised January level and 7.9 percent higher than a year ago, according to a recent report from the Associated General Contractors of America.

“It is encouraging to see growth in both monthly and year-over-year totals in private residential and nonresidential construction spending,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “There are increasing signs that 2013 will be a good year for a wide variety of project types.”

New single-family construction rose 4.3 percent from January’s level and 34 percent from a year ago. New multifamily construction fell 2.2 percent for the month but was 52 percent above the February 2012 mark.

“There is little doubt that construction of new houses and apartments will continue to boom in the next several months, based on data covering recent housing starts and building permits, as well as reports of rising rents, occupancy rates and new-home sales in many markets,” Simonson commented. “On the nonresidential side, there should be a lot of activity involving pipelines, manufacturing, railroads and trucking, and warehouses.”

The largest private nonresidential category, power construction—which includes oil and gas fields and pipelines as well as power plants, alternative energy and transmission lines—increased 0.7 percent for the month and 4.0 percent over 12 months. Manufacturing construction rose 0.3 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively. Private transportation construction slumped 2.4 percent in February but climbed 17 percent year-over-year. Warehouse construction soared 8.3 percent and 19 percent. New and remodeled private office construction rose 0.3 percent and 25 percent.

Association officials said federal infrastructure investment has been plunging. Federal investment in construction dropped 1.1 percent in February and 10 percent from a year ago.

Association officials urged policy makers in Washington to make infrastructure investment a priority.

“The nation has been underinvesting in infrastructure for years,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “With funding set through September, it is time for Washington to work on finding adequate funding in the next budget.”