Nonresidential construction spending contracted during January, according to analysis of U.S. Census Bureau released by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Nonresidential spending fell 1.9 percent from December to $698.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis. This represents the first month total nonresidential construction spending dipped below $700 billion since July 2016.
Despite the monthly setback, year-over-year progress remains intact, with nonresidential spending increasing 1.5 percent since January 2016. However, in real terms, that represents virtually nonexistent growth. Private nonresidential spending remained unchanged for the month, while public sector spending plunged 4.7 percent. The greatest loss in spending volume occurred in the public safety, water supply and conservation and development segments.
“The significant loss in public construction spending momentum is hardly novel,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For several years, public funding for construction activity has been flat and erratic. Public budgets remain constrained by underfunded pensions, surging Medicaid expenditures, and other non-infrastructure-related needs.
“The new president’s speech on Tuesday night discussed the need for additional infrastructure investment,” said Basu. “If the president is able to implement his public-private partnership plan, public construction spending is set to soar. However, there are many obstacles to his plan coming to fruition.
“Private construction spending was also soft in January, but the outlook remains upbeat,” said Basu. “Corporate confidence is high, architects became much busier during the period immediately following the presidential election, and capital from banks and other sources should be broadly available to developers during the year ahead.”