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Construction Spending Climbs at Fastest Pace in Eight Years

Wed March 16, 2005 - National Edition
CEG



WASHINGTON (AP) Construction spending in the United States shot up 1.1 percent in December, capping a year in which building activity posted the best performance since 1996.

The Commerce Department said Feb. 2 that last month’s increase, the best showing in eight months, followed a .3 percent advance in November and reflected widespread strength in both private and public building projects.

For the year, building activity rose 9 percent to $998.4 billion. It was the strongest increase since a 10.4 percent jump in 1996.

The strength last year came in housing activity as builders continued their mad dash to erect houses to meet soaring demand propelled by the lowest mortgage rates in more than four decades.

Total private residential activity rose by 14 percent to $542.7 billion last year, a 14 percent gain which was the biggest increase in a decade. It marked the second double-digit annual gain. Private residential building had been up 12.9 percent in 2003 after an 8.6 percent increase in 2002.

Total private construction, a category that includes office buildings, hotels and other commercial enterprises, posted a 10.9 percent increase for the year — to a total of $764.9 billion. That was the biggest increase since a gain of 11.4 percent in 1996. Private construction had risen 5.9 percent in 2003 after having actually declined by .1 percent in 2002.

Public building projects were up as well, rising by a smaller 3.4 percent to $233.5 billion for the year. That followed a 2.8 percent increase in 2003 and was the best showing since a 6.7 percent jump in 2002.