Construction spending sets record seventh month in a row

Construction spending set a seventh consecutive monthly record in January, finishing at $1.16 trillion, up 0.2 percent from December and 7.4 percent from January 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Spending on private construction reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $906.9 billion, 0.2 percent higher than December’s revised $905.3 billion, while residential construction rose to $649.9 billion, a 0.1 percent increase from last month’s figure.
Non-residential construction grew to $257 billion, 0.5 percent more than December’s $255.8 billion.

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $256.5 billion, public construction spending in January was also 0.2 percent higher than in December. The highway construction sector rose 0.9 percent to $68.9 billion.

Material prices appeared to be less of a concern to purchasing managers in February than in other recent months, according to two surveys by the Institute for Supply Management, said Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America. However, participants in ISM’s survey of non-manufacturing industries listed aluminum, copper products, diesel fuel, plastic pipe, roofing materials, steel products, wallboard and construction services as higher in price in February compared to January, Simonson said.

PVC conduit and fittings have declined in price, which is likely to continue due to the price of natural gas, which is used to make PVC. Natural gas has fallen to less than $7 per million British thermal units, after topping $15 per million BTU last fall, Simonson said.