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Economy in Brief

U.S. Construction Activity Improves
by Tom Moeller  May 2, 2016

The value of construction put-in-place improved 0.3% during March (8.6% y/y) following a 1.0% February increase, revised from -0.5%. January's 0.3% decline was revised from a 2.1% rise. A 0.5% increase was expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. During all of Q1'16, construction activity grew at a 3.3% annual rate q/q, faster than the 0.6% rise in Q4'15.

Building activity in the private sector remained strong, and posted a 1.1% increase (9.6% y/y) following a 1.3% rise. Residential building expanded 1.6% (9.1% y/y) after a 1.7% gain. Multi-family construction led the gain with a 5.6% rise (34.9% y/y), following two months of 2.5% and 4.1% growth. Spending on improvements added 2.4% (-8.9% y/y) to a 1.6% recovery from January's 14.6% plunge. Single-family building activity remained unchanged (+13.8% y/y) on the heels of strong monthly gains dating back to April of last year.

Private nonresidential building activity improved 0.7% (10.1% y/y), about the same as it did in February. Transportation building activity jumped 11.3% (13.0% y/y) after a 0.9% decline. Communication spending rose 3.7% (13.1% y/y) , but office building fell 0.8% (+23.6% y/y). Commercial building activity rose 0.8% (13.2% y/y) after a 3.2% jump.

Public sector building activity declined 1.9% (+9.1% y/y) after a 0.4% rise. Highway & street construction gained 0.4% (20.9% y/y) following sharp volatility during the prior two months. Commercial construction strengthened 8.8% (51.1% y/y) after 4.9% growth, but water supply activity fell 1.8% (-5.5% y/y) following a 2.5% rise. Power construction also fell 14.1% (-12.9% y/y) after a 4.0% increase.

The construction spending figures are in Haver's USECON database and the expectations figure is contained in the AS1REPNA database.

Construction Put in Place (SA, %) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y 2015 2014 2013
Total 0.3 1.0 -0.3 8.6 10.6 9.6 6.6
  Private 1.1 1.3 -1.3 9.6 12.5 12.9 11.3
    Residential 1.6 1.7 -4.2 9.1 13.0 14.4 19.9
    Nonresidential 0.7 0.8 2.0 10.1 11.9 11.3 3.6
  Public -1.9 0.4 2.3 9.1 5.7 1.9 -3.1
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