Construction spending in February climbed 2.1%, year over year, but slipped slightly from January's total, the Commerce Dept. reports.

The department’s latest monthly construction report, released on April 1, showed that the value of finished construction projects in February hit an annual rate of $967.2 billion, up 2.1% from February 2014’s rate but down 0.1% from January’s level.
Rates are seasonally adjusted.

Residential, the largest construction category, was off 1.9% year over year, to a $355.6-billion annual rate and was down 0.1% from January, according to the report from Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau.

Private construction put in place rose 1.8% in February, to a $698.2-billion rate, and also edged up 0.2% from January’s level.

Public construction did better, recording a 3.1% gain from its year-earlier result, to a $268.9-billion rate, but it dipped 0.8% from January’s figure.

Private-sector segments posting year-over-year increases included office buildings, up 22.8%, to $40.9 billion, and commercial, up 13.1%, to $57.6 billion.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said that, combining January and February results, private multifamily and manufacturing segments soared 30% from their 2014 rates.  “These sectors should remain hot all year,” Simonson said.

On the down side, he noted, private power projects fell 17% in the January-February period, year over year.

Among key public-sector segments, highway and street work increased 2.6% in February to an $82.8-billion rate but declined 0.2% on a month-to-month basis, according to the Census Bureau report

Public educational projects were down 0.3% in February, year over year, to a $59.1-billion rate, but showed a slight 0.2% gain versus January’s result.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, who focuses on charting nonresidential construction, pointed out that that sector was up 4.6% from February 2014 but edged down 0.1% from January.

Basu said ABC is still predicting a “robust” recovery for nonresidential this year “despite the most recent monthly data, with the obvious exception of industry segments most directly and negatively impacted by declines in energy prices.”