The nation’s builders were busy in July as construction spending increased 0.6 percent to $900.8 billion—the largest upswing in four years—according to the September 3 report by the U.S. Commerce Department.
Nonresidential construction spending also rose 0.6 percent in July, but is down 0.8 percent compared to one year ago.
Private nonresidential construction spending grew 1.3 percent, only to be offset by a 0.2 percent decline in public nonresidential construction spending. On a year-over-year basis, private nonresidential construction is up 2 percent while public nonresidential construction spending has dipped 3.7 percent.
Eleven of 16 construction sectors posted monthly gains in spending. The largest gains were in lodging, up 5.8 percent; conservation and development, up 3.6 percent; manufacturing, up 3.3 percent; and transportation, up 2.4 percent. Six subsectors experienced higher spending on a year-over-year basis, including lodging, up 29.9 percent; commercial, up 1.6 percent; power, up 6.1 percent; sewage and waste disposal, up 3.8 percent; water supply, up 9.5 percent; and manufacturing, up 0.2 percent.
In contrast, spending in five nonresidential construction sectors declined in July, including educational, down 0.7 percent; religious, down 3.1 percent; public safety, down 8.1 percent; amusement and recreation, down 2.7 percent; and highway and street, down 1.1 percent. On a year-over-year basis, construction spending has softened in 10 subsectors. The largest losses occurred in religious, down 18.1 percent; public safety, down 14.1 percent; amusement and recreation, down 12.6 percent; and communication, down 12.5 percent.
“July represented a period of accelerated progress in terms of private nonresidential construction spending,” says Anirban Basu, the chief economist for the Associated Builders and Contractors. “However, a deeper look at the data indicates recovery remains subdued in many key segments.
“All of this indicates that even in the fifth year of economic expansion, recovery in the nonresidential construction sector remains sporadic.”