The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 17, 2017

Construction takes a dip to start 2017

By The Building Tradesman



U.S. construction spending got off on the wrong foot in 2017, falling one percent from December to January. But spending was up 3.1 percent compared to January 2016.

The numbers, reported March 1 by the Associated General Contractors using Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, revealed that private construction is growing solidly, but public infrastructure outlays are tumbling.

"These numbers suggest that demand for residential and private nonresidential structures remain strong, but all levels of government are struggling to fund needed projects," said Ken Simonson, the AGC's chief economist. "It appears that homebuilding, office and power construction will continue to grow through 2017, while manufacturing, highway and other transportation construction are likely to hold down overall growth."

Simonson said the January data indicates the need for new public investments in infrastructure along the lines of the trillion dollar proposal President Trump outlined during his Congressional address on Feb. 28.

"These numbers suggest that demand for residential and private nonresidential structures remain strong but all levels of government are struggling to fund needed projects," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "It appears that homebuilding, office and power construction will continue to grow through 2017, while manufacturing, highway and other transportation construction are likely to hold down overall growth."

U.S. construction spending in January totaled $1.180 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate. Private nonresidential construction spending was flat for the month and increased 8.9 percent year-over-year. The largest private nonresidential segment in January was power construction (including oil and gas pipelines), which gained 5.8 percent over 12 months. Commercial (retail, warehouse and farm) construction rose 12 percent year-over-year. Manufacturing construction fell 6.8 percent from a year before. Private office construction gained 34 percent compared with January 2016.

 Public construction spending plunged 9.0 percent from the January 2016 rate. Infrastructure categories were especially hard hit. Highway construction shrank 10 percent year-over-year.

"As a group that has long advocated for a mix of new private and public sector investments to finance civil works projects, we were encouraged to hear the president make it clear that any new federal plan must include public investments as well as new private financing opportunities," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's CEO.