Construction Spending Rises; Highway Construction Falls


The U.S. Census Bureau announced that construction spending was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,257.0 billion, 0.8 percent (±1.2 percent) above the revised October estimate of $1,247.1 billion. The November figure is 2.4 percent (±1.5 percent) above the November 2016 estimate of $1,227.0 billion. 

During the first 11 months of this year, construction spending amounted to $1,138.3 billion, 4.2 percent (±1.0 percent) above the $1,091.9 billion for the same period in 2016.

Public Construction

In November, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $292.7 billion, 0.2 percent (±2.0 percent) above the revised October estimate of $292.0 billion. Highway construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $88.0 billion, 0.8 percent (±4.6 percent) below the revised October estimate of $88.7 billion.

Private Construction

Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $964.3 billion, 1.0 percent (± 1.0 percent) above the revised October estimate of $955.1 billion. 

  • Residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $530.8 billion in November, 1.0 percent (±1.3 percent) above the revised October estimate of $525.3 billion. 
  • Nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $433.5 billion in November, 0.9 percent (± 1.0 percent) above the revised October estimate of $429.7 billion.

“The November report represented a stark reversal of preexisting trends,” said Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For much of the past several years, the pattern in nonresidential construction spending has been one in which a number of private categories expanded briskly, including lodging and office, while a host of public construction categories experienced sluggish  spending. That changed in November, with public construction spending rising and private construction spending shrinking on a year-over-year basis. 

“There are several possible explanations, including growing concerns about overbuilding in a number of large metropolitan areas in the lodging, office and commercial categories,” said Basu. “Financiers may also be less willing to supply financing to a variety of private projects given such concerns. At the same time, the U.S. housing market is the strongest it has been in at least a decade, raising sales prices and expanding assessable residential tax bases. That in turn has supplied additional resources for infrastructure. Over the past year, this has been particularly apparent in the educational and public safety categories.”