WASHINGTON – U.S. builders pushed construction spending up 0.7 percent in December to a record high. It was the fifth consecutive monthly gain with all major sectors showing modest increases.
The December increase followed a 0.6 percent rise in November, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. It closed out a year in which construction spending rose 3.8 percent. It was the sixth consecutive annual increase. However, it was the weakest performance since a decline in 2011, a period when spending fell for five years as builders struggled to emerge from the housing bust and the Great Recession.
For December, spending on housing projects rose 0.5 percent while nonresidential construction was up a stronger 1.1 percent. Spending on government projects rose 0.3 percent as strength at the federal level offset a drop in state and local construction.
For the year, spending totaled $1.23 trillion. The 3.8 percent gain for the entire year followed increases of 11 percent in 2014, 10.7 percent in 2015 and 6.5 percent in 2016.
Residential construction was up 10.6 percent for all of 2017 while nonresidential building showed a slight 0.6 percent increase. Spending on government projects fell 2.5 percent, the second straight annual decline. Spending by state and local governments was down 2.7 percent while spending by the federal government posted a small 0.3 percent increase.
For December, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.253 trillion was a record monthly number. Economists believe construction will support overall economic growth this year, helped by an acceleration in home building.