U.S. construction spending (search) fell unexpectedly by 0.4 percent in November, as a cooling in residential construction overpowered a small rise in public spending, a government report showed on Monday.

Construction put in place in November decreased to a $1.013 trillion annual rate, compared with an upwardly revised $1.017 trillion in October, the Commerce Department (search) said. November's decline was the largest one-month drop since February 2003.

Wall Street analysts were expecting a 0.3 percent increase. October's reading was revised to a 0.3 percent gain from the originally reported unchanged measure.

Overall residential spending fell 0.3 percent in November, due mainly to a 0.4 percent fall in private residential construction. The decline in private residential outlays was the largest decrease since January 2002. Still, the pace of private spending on residential construction remained 10.0 percent ahead of November 2003.

Public construction spending rose 0.4 percent in November, with gains in education, commercial and recreational construction offsetting decreases in highway, health care and power.

Private nonresidential construction spending, often seen as an indicator of business confidence, fell 1.2 percent in the month.