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Construction News Not All Bleak, Census Bureau Reports

Construction spending in February totaled $968 billion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, down 0.9 percent from January and 10 percent from February 2008, the Census Bureau reported recently. Private residential construction fell 4.3 percent from January and 30 percent from February 2008; private nonresidential construction rose 0.3 percent from January but declined 0.2 percent year over year. Public construction rose 0.8 percent from January and 3.4 percent from February 2008.

“Public construction is being boosted by federal construction spending, which grew 16 percent since February 2008,” wrote Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America in his newsletter The Data DIGest. “The federal increases probably stem from military base realignment work, flood-prevention projects in Louisiana, Mexican border security facilities and veterans care.”

Educational construction spending jumped 1.7 percent compared with January, and 9 percent compared with February 2008. Highway and street construction dropped 0.5 percent from January, and rose 3 percent year over year. The largest private nonresidential category in February was manufacturing construction, which jumped 4.1 percent and 64 percent, followed by commercial (retail, warehouse and farm), which dropped 1.9 percent month over month and 23 percent year over year.

“Construction spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the ‘stimulus’ bill) will show up in a variety of categories as either federal or state-local totals, depending which agency awards the contracts,” added Simonson.

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