Construction in most building segments that use large amounts of glass retreated slightly in March from the prior month, but recorded strong gains year-over-year, according to USGNN.com™ analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
The glass-happy office sector saw a 2.5-percent decline in construction from February to March, though it increased by 15.7 percent from the same time last year. Construction starts for offices totaled $73.3 billion at a seasonally adjusted, annualized rate.
This coincides with the overall outlook of U.S. contract glaziers, who said in the 2017 Glass and Glazing Industry Outlook that they expect large upticks in office work this year, in addition to the educational, healthcare and commercial segments.
Starts in the commercial sector jumped 10.9 percent for the year to $80.5 billion despite a 3.4-percent dip for the month. Educational building increased 1 percent from March 2016 to March 2017, also declining by 3.4 percent from February. Healthcare construction declined 1.4 percent for the year to $41.4 billion and ticked up 1.7 percent for the month.
The nonresidential segment as a whole was down 1.2 percent on a month-to-month basis and increased just 1 percent year-over-year. However, that number was dragged down by a 9.7-percent decrease in manufacturing building construction and a 12.3-percent decline in transportation.
The latest construction numbers drew mixed reviews.
Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, says construction spending is at record levels for the second straight month and is up 4.9 percent for the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, despite dipping slightly from February.
“Construction spending totals during the past two months are at the highest levels we have ever seen,” he says. “If the winter weather hadn’t been so mild in much of the country, we would have seen less growth in February and a higher rate of growth in March, but overall demand remains quite robust.”
Construction spending in March totaled $1.218 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, nearly unchanged from the month before. Sandherr says the year-to-date increase of 4.9 percent for January through March 2017, compared with the same months of 2016, shows demand for construction continues to experience robust growth.
However, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist Anirban Basu points out that private construction spending has lost momentum, “perhaps because developers and their financiers are becoming increasingly unnerved by the possibility of mini-bubbles in certain commercial real estate segments.”
“Many investors may also have adopted a wait-and-see attitude regarding policies coming out of Washington, D.C., including those related to proposed tax reform and infrastructure spending initiatives,” he adds. “Perhaps as a result, office and commercial-related construction spending declined in March. Still, other data suggest lingering momentum in various privately-financed segments, and data from the most recent GDP report indicate that investors continue to invest aggressively in structures. It is for this reason that [this] construction spending release is at least somewhat surprising with respect to private investment in structures.”