AGC of America reports 14 percent rise in year-over-year gains

Construction spending in February topped year-ago totals by 5.8 percent as a double-digit increase in private construction offset a small drop in public sector spending, according to a new analysis of federal data released April 2 by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The gains occurred despite a 1.1 percent decrease in spending from January to February and a dip of 0.8 percent the month before, based on revised data.

Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist said private nonresidential spending had an especially strong year-over-year gain, rising 14 percent from February 2011 to February 2012, although spending sank 1.6 percent from January to February.

The biggest increases were in the two largest private nonresidential categories—power construction, which includes shale-related activity as well as traditional and renewable electric power (-2.1 percent for the month, +24 percent over 12 months)—and manufacturing (+1.7 percent for the month, +40 percent over 12 months).

Simonson said there were year-over-year increases in all three categories of private residential spending, which was 5.6 percent higher than in February 2011 and essentially unchanged from January’s revised level.

New single-family construction posted a 4.2 percent year-over-year rise although it slipped 1.5 percent for the month, possibly because mild December and January weather allowed an early start on construction which normally begins in February. New multifamily construction was up 26 percent from the previous February and 2.0 percent from January. Spending on residential improvements moved up 4.5 percent year-over-year and 1.2 percent for the month.

Simonson said public construction spending declined 1.4 percent in February from a year earlier and 1.7 percent from January.

The two largest public categories showed similar results. Highway and street construction, the largest public category, edged up 0.4 percent year-over-year but fell 2.6 percent for the month. Educational spending rose 0.8 percent over 12 months but dropped 2.5 percent from January to February.