Construction Spending Down After February Record High

Mon May 01, 2017 - National Edition
Andrea Riquer

Residential construction was up 1.2% during March.
Residential construction was up 1.2% during March.

March took an unusual turn as spending decreased for construction that month. This follows record highs in February that were equally unusual.

Construction outlays were down 0.2%, the Commerce Department said Monday. That was below the median forecast of a 0.5% gain from a MarketWatch surveyof economists.

But it was offset by a big upward revision to February data, originally reported as a 0.8% gain. Now the Commerce Department believes spending rose 1.8% during that month. Unseasonably warm weather — it was the second-warmest February in over a century — certainly helped.

For the first three months of the year, spending was 4.9% higher than in the same period in 2016.

Much of the increase came from housing. Residential construction was up 1.2% during the month, but stood 7.3% higher than a year ago.

Overall private construction was flat in March, as lower levels of spending on public works continued to drag. Overall public construction was 0.9% lower during the month, and 6.5% lower than in March 2016.